McCain visits Edwards |

McCain visits Edwards

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailySen. John McCain shakes hands with former Eagle County commissioner Tom Stone after being introduced to both Tom and his wife Henri Stone after landing at Eagle Airport Thursday.

EDWARDS, Colorado ” Presidential candidate John McCain told supporters in Edwards on Wednesday he still feels like the underdog even as polls now show him tied with his opponent, Barack Obama.

“We’re very happy where we are,” McCain said. “Have no doubt that we’re the underdog in this campaign. We are the underdog, and that’s what I relish, and that’s what I like.”

The campaign trail came through Eagle County, where, according to local GOP officials, over $1 million was raised over the last three weeks for McCain.

The Arizona senator addressed a crowd of nearly 300, each of whom paid at least $1,000 to attend the luncheon.

“We will be outspent in this campaign,” McCain said. “But thanks for your generosity and your support.”

Speaking at the home of Frank and Patricia Lynch high above Lake Creek, McCain talked at most length about the conflict in South Ossetia between Russia and Georgia, saying the U.S. must take a tough stance with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“What we’re seeing now is a gross violation of everything we stand for and believe in, and Vladimir Putin is flexing the muscles of the new Russian empire, and that’s what this is about,” McCain said.

The presumptive GOP nominee reiterated his support of President Bush’s announcement Wednesday that the U.S. would send humanitarian aid to Georgia and that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go there to offer support.

He suggested that Russia be forced to veto in public any ceasefire brokered by the U.N. Security Council that it opposes.

“My friends, there’s no room in the G-8 for a country that’s behaved as Russia has,” McCain said.

McCain touched on energy, the war on Iraq, and even fit in a few jabs at the sitting Congress.

“They went on a five-week vacation without doing anything on energy,” he said. “They should come back to town and do the work of the American people.

“As president of the United States, I’d call them back into session and I’d say, ‘Get about the people’s business and stop worrying about yourselves.'”

The crowd erupted in cheers.

The candidate’s talk lasted for about 15 minutes. His wife, Cindy, also spoke briefly while wearing a sling. John McCain explained that an overzealous supporter had accidentally sprained his wife’s arm Wednesday.

John and Cindy McCain arrived at Eagle County Regional Airport in their “Straight Talk Air” plane, coming from Michigan, at around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, and their motorcade arrived in Edwards shortly thereafter. The McCains were whisked into the home as most supporters waited in a big tent in the backyard.

John McCain had a short meeting with top donors. Meanwhile, campaign-trail reporters and photographers from outlets such as the Washington Post, ABC and the Associated Press were corralled in an upstairs room.

McCain later emerged on the stage of the tent to speak to the large crowd as Secret Service kept a watchful eye on the event. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former U.S. Rep. and vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp ” who was instrumental in getting McCain to appear here ” were in the audience.

After the Edwards speech, McCain headed to Aspen, where he spoke at the Aspen Institute. He will head to Southern California today.

Local supporters said they were impressed by McCain’s appearance.

“He’s so much better in person than he is on TV,” said Randy Milhoan, chairman of the Eagle County Republicans, lauding McCain for his experience in politics and his expertise in world affairs.

Obama is too liberal, too immature and too inexperienced for the job, Milhoan said.

Melissa Lueck, who helped organize the event, said there was even more local support than she anticipated. She said it was exciting to have McCain speak in the area.

“How often do we get the possibility to see the next leader of the free world here?” she said.

Tom Kirk, a Vail resident who was a prisoner of war alongside McCain at the so-called “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War, said it was “thrilling and marvelous” to see his old friend.

“I think he has enough experience, desire and knowledge to take this country in the direction it needs to go,” Kirk said.

Seeme Hasan, a Beaver Creek resident, said she was struck by how energetic and vibrant McCain seemed.

“I can see he’s ready to fight,” she said.

The high amount of donations that the event raised in such a short time shows that Eagle County is becoming a mandatory stop for presidential candidates, Hasan said.

“I think, at the moment, we are on par with Denver,” she said. “I’m very excited for Eagle County. How many counties can say they had a presidential candidate come?”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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