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In 'Battleground,' McCain Finds Support

Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, wound up a rally in Fairfax, Va., last week, as a noisy crowd of 20,000 cheered and waved posters and banners and amid a pro-peace protest.

The crowd underwent hours of security screening in order to hear McCain and Palin speak for about 20 minutes apiece, in speeches criticizing the Democratic candidate, Sen. Barak Obama and outlining the Republican plan to create millions of jobs, promote the economy and address corruption.

"The commonwealth of Virginia is a battleground state," McCain said. "We must win and we will win it with your support."

"John McCain and I, we are ready, and with your help we will win," Palin said.

One hundred protesters gathered outside the rally, holding posters that said, "Stop War," "Pro-war is not pro-life," "Honk for Peace," and "$ for school, not for bombs."

Protesters clashed briefly with McCain supporters, exchanging shouts: "No more war!" from protesters and "USA! USA!" from McCain supporters.

One of the protesters, Desiree Ali-Fairrooz, an activist with the group CODEPINK, was blocked by security as she rushed the McCain-Palin convoy.

"I wanted John McCain to see that there are voices here for peace and that we recognize the lies that they promote," she said later. "Every time they say peace, they mean war. Every time they say pro-life, they mean pro-death. And I want John McCain to see that n omatter where he goes there will be voices at the scene, and we know that they lie."

McCain responded to protesters with a smile, even as they cursed him extended their middle fingers at him.

Another pro-peace activist, Liz Hourican, criticized President George W. Bush for spending billions of dollars in the Iraq War.

"If we bring peace it's going to be with building the economy, offering jobs and giving people something rather than war to do," she said.

McCain supporters said the protesters had a right to free speech.

"They are welcome. This is America," said Steve Shigley. "They are welcome to express whatever they want to express."

Meanwhile, the support rally continued.

Frank Leonard, a McCain supporter, said he supported "integrity," but said the most important aspect of the process was participation, whether one voted for McCain or Obama.

One supporter, Jerome Headley, who served 20 years in the military and hailed from Fairfax, held a poster that read: "Sarah! Will you marry me?"

The Republican ticket, he said, would bring freedom to the world and an improvement to the economy.

"You are right that it costs money to send our troops abroad," he said. "The tree of liberty must be watered from time to time, and we have to stand up and help those countries that are trying to establish freedom. It's in our own national security interests to defend freedom around the world. We need more countries, more people, to stand up with us, and we will defeat the forces of terrorism."

McCain was a servant of the people and the nation, he said, and Palin was a well-known leader with experience that helped the Alaskan economy, making her a good pick as running mate.

Patty Obate, from the state of Maryland, said she was happy to be at the rally, watching candidates who care about people helping people.

"I do think the budget needs a lot of close looks, and we need to be very, very careful on how we manage our money," she said.

The US election will be held Nov. 4, and so far both McCain and Obama are struggling for support throughout the US.