John McCain's "Straight Talk Express" came to the Civic Center in Rocky River this morning and the man himself delivered one of his "straight talks" to a group of supporters and independents alike. I was lucky enough to get a 4th row seat.
As I've told some of you already, I was not originally a McCain supporter but since Mitt Romney dropped out of the race, I am now officially on record as a McCainiac.
I noticed today during both his opening remarks and the question-and-answer period afterward that there's something quite endearing about a guy who's not afraid to tell you things you might not want to hear.
McCain talked about the "transcendent" threat of our time (radical Muslim extremists), keeping the tax cuts, treating our war veterans to a more efficient way to get their health conditions treated, fuel concerns - from having to get our oil from country's unfriendly to the U.S. - to the need for nuclear energy development. (I think I was the only one in the room who clapped when he brought up the advantages of nuclear energy.)
During his opening remarks, and right through the town hall meeting questions and on to the press conference afterward, McCain answered definitively and completely every question he was asked.
And I've never seen someone so relaxed and confident that on two or three occasions McCain actually revisited a question that someone in the audience brought up. Before he moved on to the next questioner he went back to answer it more fully before he went. Granted, he won't have that latitude during a televised debate, with it's time constraints, but today I was impressed with how McCain handled questions that he felt needed fleshing out.
McCain was a man comfortable in his own skin, and exuded the calm of someone who's got not only experience in the U.S. political arena but has an appreciation of our position in the rest of world.
The crowd enjoyed humorous quips that he borrowed (and attributed) to past politicians; any stand-up comic would be jealous of the way McCain "delivered," albeit to a mostly friendly crowd. I could be wrong but I don't think an unfriendly crowd would have seen a different candidate, though.
I was a little worried that John McCain lacked that attractive "oratory" gene, the one that's prominent in the current Democratic front-runner, Senator Barack Obama, but I'm here to tell you that McCain doesn't need it. Obama may need it, but John McCain's appeal for me was really more substantial and he left me feeling more comfortable, uplifted, and yes, even more confident that he's got all the right stuff to give the Dems a run for their money on the road to the White House.
McCain assured the crowd that he'll be back again, and again, and again, because Ohio is critical to anyone winning the U.S. presidency. So you'll all get another chance to hear the Straight Talker before election day in November.
We know that the stakes are too high - maybe the highest in my lifetime - to relax and coast through this 2008 presidential campaign season, letting others take the lead in getting the message out and just hoping that our guy will win.
I'm fine-tuning my voice and, as Melissa said yesterday in our Prager group meeting, just have to keep on speaking. Hopefully I'll get a little more articulate with practice.