About two months ago, on August 29th, I stood outside the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio with a “point-and-shoot” Sony digital camera in one hand and a ticket to the John McCain “Road to the Convention” campaign ticket in the other. I was watching the folks in line to see what kind of cameras they were being allowed in, debating if I should return to my car and retrieve my Canon 40d, then see if security would let me in with it.
On this day John McCain, the Republican Senator from Arizona, would make history by announcing his choice for a running mate in one of the most important elections of recent history. I decided to risk it. I ran across Wright State University’s campus to my car, grabbed my Digital SLR camera and a 200mm lens, depositing my Sont, and then ran back to the Nutter Center past a long line of AFL-CIO protesters. I wanted to document the event as a photojournalist, but at the same time I wanted to be a supporter. This election will be the first opportunity I’ve had to vote for president of the United States. Yes, I’m a John McCain supporter. (Now before you leave all kinds of nasty comments on here or hit me with emails just know I already voted absentee and it’s too late to change my mind as you can probably guess who I voted for.) I respect other people’s decisions for who they vote for if they feel that is their best choice just as I hope you respect mine. That day in Dayton I saw history as John McCain tapped Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate, the first female on the main Republican ticket. Over the next few weeks the McCain campaign would see a surge in the polls and find themselves in the lead but soon found themselves to be trailing behind Obama in the aftermath of the debates and economic crisis. As various polls were shown in favor of different candidates and the race narrowed; one thing could be agreed upon: Ohio is going to play a major role in this election. Ohio was crucial in the 2000 and 2004 elections for the Bush campaign to win and no Republican has won the presidency in recent history without winning Ohio. With polls getting closer in Ohio it became clear that McCain needs this state to win the presidency and so it was no surprise when the McCain campaign swept through Southwestern Ohio (typically the conservative stronghold of Ohio) this past Wednesday to try and rally support. A friend of mine was able to get me a ticket and with him speaking in Cincinnati I though it would make a good feature for this site, so this time I went to the event primarily with photography in mind (in all fairness if Obama came around here I would go photograph him as well if I had the time and opportunity).
Suspecting opposition and protests like I had seen in Dayton, I arrived at Lunken Airport around noon hoping to document some of the pre-rally action, however, there was not a single protester the whole afternoon; just a steadily growing line of McCain supporters along Wilmer Ave.
A few passing cars yelled out “Obama” or “Nader” or saluted the crowd with a middle finger, but other than that there seemed to be hardly anyone there opposing McCain. With not much going on I got in line up front and waited patiently.
By 3:30 the crowds were growing. Vendors walked up and down the sidewalk selling buttons and stickers or yelling about Senator Obama’s alleged connections to William Ayres.
But after a few hours of waiting I found myself inside Lunken Airport’s Hanger C, 15ft. away from the podium, waiting another two hours for McCain and Palin to arrive. At 5:30 a few of the local Hamilton County GOP folks spoke followed by some really bad department store saxophone music.
A plane began to land and the crowd went nuts, it took nearly 20 minutes for the plane to taxi up to the hanger only for it to be just a bunch of McCain’s staff and country star Gretchen Wilson who came out and sang one song. As Wilson finished, another Boeing 737 descended on Lunken Field. Within minutes Senator John MccCain’s “Straight Talk Express” had landed. An enthusiastic crowd greeted him as the plane pulled up to the hanger:
The candidates wasted no time getting to the speeches. Cindy McCain introduced her husband’s running mate Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska who delivered a speech to a very receptive crowd.
As the sun began to set nearly 3,000 supporters were cramming into the hanger or listening outside. Following Palin’s speech, which focused primarily on attacking the Obama campaign’s tax plan and Senator Joe Biden’s “world crisis” statement…
…it was time for Senator McCain to take the stage…
The Senator’s speech focused primarily on his belief in small business owners, his plan to “cut taxes for the middle class,” and an AP poll that had come out that day declaring him and Obama in a near tie. Unlike in Dayton, I felt McCain kept this speech brief and felt it was a lot stronger. Although I lean towards supporting McCain, I didn’t feel he did very strong in the televised debates, however seeing him speak in person is like seeing a completely different person, he seemed much more energetic and really got the crowd excited.
Both candidates took a few minutes to sign autographs and greet supporters before waving goodbye to their Southern Ohio supporters and boarding the “Straight Talk Express” Boeing 737.
Despite the outcome of this election, it will be one of historic firsts, and Ohio will have been the staging ground for many key events leading up to the election and just may end up deciding this election.