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Monday, February 18, 2008

 9:26 PM 

McCain swipes at Dems at GOP dinner

APPLETON -- Fresh off the endorsement of President George H.W. Bush, GOP frontrunner John McCain told a crowd of party faithful in Appleton Monday night "the best times are ahead" and swiped at Democrats on a series of issues.

Speaking to the Outagamie County GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner, McCain condemned the Democratic Congress for leaving domestic surveillance legislation unfinished, while bashing Democratic positions on the war on terror.

He promised to follow Osama bin Laden "to the gates of Hell" if necessary to track him down and drew applause for his comments on border control and his boast that in 24 years as a lawmaker, he has never requested a single earmark.

"What do we want?" he asked, "A bridge to nowhere, or a tax credit for every child in America of $1,000?"

About 500 people paid the $35 each to attend Monday's dinner that included the likes of former GOP state Treasurer Jack Voight, who introduced McCain; state Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah; former GOP Assembly Speaker John Gard; and Congressman Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac.

McCain has been working to solidify his support among the party's conservative wing since all but sewing up the party's nomination. Each of the lawmakers at Monday's dinner praised McCain.

Gard, who McCain called "the future of our Republican Party," said the Arizona senator was "very conservative."

"I believe that, or I wouldn't support him," said Gard, who is challenging Dem U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton. McCain campaigned for Gard in the 8th CD two years ago during his first race against Kagen.

Many in the GOP establishment have called for Mike Huckabee to drop out of the race for president, arguing he has no shot to overtake McCain for the nomination. But McCain told the crowd, "I respect his desire."

"He, like me, wasn't given much of a chance at one time or another," said McCain, who many had written off last year amid a campaign shakeup.

McCain was talking to the crowd about how Wisconsin is known for its fiscal responsibility and clean government just before a protester near the exit shouted, "What about the Keating Five?"

"Thank you, sir," replied McCain, "I'm glad you paid for your ticket."

The young man was pulled out the door as he claimed the 9/11 terror attacks were "an inside job."

Listen to Pt. 1 of McCain's speech, including introductions by state Sen. Mike Ellis and John Gard here.

Listen to Pt. 2 of McCain's speech here.

-- By Jeff Decker


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