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ALBUQUERQUE – Near deafening screams and whistles burst forth from the massive crowd the moment they spotted Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin walk onto the stage for Saturday night's Road to Victory rally inside the convention center.
“Ladies and gentlemen – I'm so honored to introduce you to Sarah Palin and I can't wait to introduce Sarah Palin to Washington, D.C.,” said Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Support for Palin has grown steadily stronger since McCain announced she was his running mate just 11 days ago.
“I could not ask for a greater partner than the governor of Alaska,” McCain told the wildly enthusiastic audience. “The response to her has been overwhelming, it's been incredible ... With this kind of reception, there's no doubt we are going to win New Mexico.”
Despite many supporters' long wait in line and then standing on the convention center's cement floor, their excitement only grew as they enthusiastically waved McCain-Palin signs and American flags high in the air.
The candidates spoke for about half an hour amid thundering applause and cheers that often drowned out their comments.
“With your help, we’re going to Washington to shake things up,” Palin said, adding that she is ready to help McCain bring tax relief to all Americans.
McCain told the crowd he understands western issues such as oil and water. He revved up the crowd when he promised, “Yes, my friends, we'll drill now.” Thousands of voices began chanting, “Drill, baby, drill.”
He also promised to make public the names of any lawmakers who place pork-barrel earmarks in any bills that cross his desk as president. “You'll know every one of their names,” he said.
McCain wants to stop sending $700 billion to countries that, “don't like us very much.”
He spoke of his support for the troops overseas and also said he advocates using various types of energy and said, “Oh, by the way, nuclear energy is clean and safe ... We’ll reprocess that spent nuclear fuel and we'll use a lot of the talent right here in New Mexico to research and develop energy solutions...”.
McCain, on his fourth trip to New Mexico since May, called New Mexico a battle ground state and told supporters that his ticket must win this state.
Actor Robert Duvall and his wife joined candidate spouses, Cindy and Todd, on stage for the event.
Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., gave the invocation at the start of the rally. Pearce, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said, “It is my belief God raises up people to meet the times and what an extraordinary couple we have here tonight.”
Some 6,000 people turned out for the event, waiting in a line that wrapped around the convention center and across the street from about 80 protesters shouting, “Bush, McCain - more of the same.” Albuquerque police stood watch over the situation, which ended without incident.
McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama, is scheduled to make a campaign stop in northern New Mexico later this month.