By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
McCain: Georgia will be competitive in November
McCain 2008 GAGH109 6248558
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrives on stage with Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue to speak to employees during a campaign stop at the Chick-Fil-A headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. Friday, March 7, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    ATLANTA — It’s been almost 16 years since Bill Clinton won Georgia, becoming the last Democrat to take the state in a presidential general election.
    But this year’s presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, said he’s not taking the state’s rich shade of Republican red for granted.
    Making a swing through Georgia just days after locking up the GOP nomination, the Arizona senator warned that the state’s rapid growth and shifting demographics — drawing new residents from all over the country — place the state in play come November.
    ‘‘I will be coming back to this great state. It’s going to be competitive in the general election,’’ McCain said at the sprawling suburban Atlanta headquarters of the Georgia-based restaurant chain Chick-fil-A.
    Georgia has been solidly Republican in recent years. But more Democratic ballots were cast in the state’s hard-fought Feb. 5 presidential primary. Barack Obama won that contest with backing from across the spectrum, including overwhelming support from the state’s large black community.
    On the GOP side, McCain lost the state to Mike Huckabee, who drew evangelicals and social conservatives to the polls. Looking to shore up support among that critical GOP base, McCain praised Huckabee on Friday as ‘‘a great, great man.’’
    Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who only endorsed McCain on Monday, introduced him to an audience of Chick-Fil-A employees, saying that McCain’s straight talk and conviction are appealing in the state. The appearance with Dan Cathy, son of Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy, could also help. The Cathys have been outspoken in their support of Republican social conservatives. Chick-fil-A has won praise from religious conservative for keeping its doors shut on Sundays.
    McCain used the town hall appearance to offer a standard stump speech. He stressed the need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent to help the flagging economy and played up what is widely perceived as his biggest strength: national security.
    ‘‘If I have to follow him to the gates of hell I will get Osama bin Laden and I will bring him to justice,’’ McCain said to sustained applause.
    Illegal immigration remains a thorny topic for McCain. His support for a bill that would give some illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship drew several dozen protesters to a fundraiser at an elite Atlanta hotel Thursday night.
    Fielding a question on the topic during his town hall appearance on Friday McCain quipped ‘‘meeting adjourned.’’
    He went on to explain that he believes that temporary guest workers are needed but only with greater border security measures in place.
    And he urged the audience to view the issue in a compassionate way that reflected ‘‘Judeo-Christian values.’’
    ‘‘We love all of God’s children,’’ McCain said.
    Speaking to reporters afterward with Perdue at his side, McCain said it was premature to say whether the governor would make a good running mate. As Perdue chuckled at the question, McCain said he hasn’t begun the process of selecting a vice president.
    He said Perdue ‘‘will play a strong role nationally’’ in the campaign.
    McCain was more definite when a student asked if he might select Democrat John Kerry to share the ticket. Kerry had talked to McCain about becoming his running mate in his ill-fated 2004 bid against Republican George Bush.
    ‘‘No,’’ McCain said immediately.
    ‘‘John Kerry is a friend of mind and a close associate. We are fellow veterans but we have very vastly different philosophical, fundamental political views,’’ McCain said. ‘‘
    I respect those views...I just totally disagree with them.’’

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter