Thomas Fitzgerald reports: John McCain is making his basic stump speech at the top of a townhall meeting in the Constitution Center.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee opened a little bit ago by saying he was planning to contest Pennsylvania in the general election, though the state has gone Democratic in the past four presidential contests.
"We're going to go to the small towns of Pennsylvania and I'm going to tell them that I don't agree with Sen. Obama that they cling to religion and the constitution because they are bitter," McCain said.
Barack Obama ran into trouble in the runup to the April 22 Pennsylvania primary when his remarks at a private fundraiser came to light saying that small-town state residents are angry and bitter at economic struggles and thus "cling" to guns and religion and fear of people different from them. (McCain's reference to the Constitution is of course to that document's Second Amendment, which deals with the right to bear arms.)
I'll keep posts to a minimum since we are live-blogging the event on philly.com. Call the blog entries a kind of Cliff Notes version of the town-hall.
McCain doesn't want to raise taxes, wants to bring back prosperity, understands the economy is tough. He jabbed Obama for proposing an increase in the capital gains tax rate, among other things. "Why in the world would anyone consider raising your taxes in the middle of tough times?" McCain said. "Why take your money and send it to Washington to spend on a bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it."
McCain has been asked about international AIDS policy, how he can appeal to young people, how to provide equality in educational opportunity and why he supports lowering the federal tax rate for corporations among other things so far.
He wants the corporate tax rate to be 25 percent instead of the current 35 pct, the second highest in the world. "I don't view that as a 'break' for corporations, but as an incentive for investment in the United States of America" that creates jobs.
Though he is trying to distance himself from an unpopular president, McCain told a questioner that "we ought to give President and Laura Bush a little credit for their dedication" to fighting AIDS around the world.
Obama is for government-control of health care rather than his plan of tax breaks that enables people to amke their own choices.
"If you think the government can run health care, well visit some other bureaucracies in Washington before you sign on," McCain said.
McCain said he does not believe the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge should be opened to oil exploration, in response to a question about the need to increase domestic oil supply.
"I wouldn't drill in the Grand Canyon, I wouldn't drill in the Everglades" either, McCain said, to applause. Chalk up another distancing from the White House. But in the next breath, McCain said he did favor "incentives" to allow more exploration for oil and natural gas off U.S. coasts.