McCain’s son travels Southside, visits SNH

Published 11:05 pm Saturday, November 1, 2008

With his father’s opponent pressing hard to swing the traditionally Republican state to the Democrats this year, Doug McCain took a trip through conservative Southside Virginia on Wednesday to try to shore up support for Sen. John McCain.

Capping off an eastward trek from South Hill, Doug McCain stopped by the Suffolk News-Herald for a visit, a day before Sen. Barack Obama returned to Virginia Beach for a Democratic rally.

The Republican candidate’s son acknowledged that his Southside visits were part of an effort to solidify Virginia’s wavering status as a red state in the face of an intensive Democratic effort to convert the commonwealth.

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“Initially, we were probably operating for a long time on the premise that Virginia was safe,” he said, of the decision by his father’s campaign to concentrate its resources elsewhere for much of the race. “As much time as (Democrats) have been spending here, we’ve been spending in Pennsylvania,” trying to win that state for Republicans, he said.

The younger McCain, a Virginia Beach resident and a former naval aviator, like his father, said he had been drafted by the McCain/Palin campaign to help get out the Republican message.

It’s not an assignment that he’s entirely comfortable with, he said, and he hopes this — or at least 2012, if his father is elected this year — is the last campaign he’ll have to work.

“It’s been fun, but it’s been stressful,” the American Airlines pilot said. “They’ve used me some, but I have a J-O-B.”

McCain was relaxed in a button-down Oxford without a tie as he sat with his traveling partner, Jerry Flowers, who described himself as a Democrat who “campaigned for and donated generously to” Mark Warner when he was stumping for the governor’s job and Jim Webb as he campaigned for the U.S. Senate.

Flowers said in a letter to the newspaper that he is supporting Sen. McCain in the presidential election, because Obama’s “economic principles stand opposite to the principles on which this country was founded.”

Doug McCain stressed the differences between the Democratic and Republican economic plans during Wednesday’s visit, noting that Obama intends to raise some Americans’ taxes.

“If we raise anybody’s taxes right now … and if we put in place protectionist trade policies … the last time that was done, it took a recession and made it into the Great Depression,” he said. “We can’t increase taxes, and we’re going to have to rein in spending.”

Doug McCain was 8 when his father was shot down over Vietnam and 13 when the elder McCain finally returned home from a prisoner of war camp.

“I was still lucky,” he said Wednesday. “I knew a fair number of kids whose dads didn’t come back.”

Military service is a hallmark of McCain men, as Doug and two half-brothers from his father’s second marriage all followed the elder into the armed forces.

When Doug McCain announced to his father that he was going to join the Navy, he said, “I thought he would do back flips.”

His father’s military service — especially in light of the time he spent as a POW — means he is “ready from Day 1 to be the Commander-in-Chief,” he said. “On national security, clearly my dad is the choice.

“When you’re ultimately looking for a leader in a time of crisis,” he said, “the most illustrative thing for that is (John McCain) refusing early release from prison” by his Viet Cong captors.