After his overnight campaign stop in the Twin Cities, John McCain rode his straight-talk express across the border to Hudson, Wis.
His town hall meeting at J&L Steel Erectors, a female-owned construction company, included more than 500 invited businesswomen. If there was any question why McCain was in Wisconsin and talking to women, the candidate offered a early reminder.
"There's no doubt that Wisconsin will be one of those states that decides who the next president of the United States is," said McCain. "And I would also like to remind you that women are a majority of the population, and a majority of the voters."
McCain said his plans to cut income, business and estate taxes will help women who own small businesses. He's been repeating similar themes all week while focusing on his economic strategy.
His Democratic challenger, Barack Obama, also campaigned this week on women's issues, a point not lost on McCain.
"When you cut through all the smooth rhetoric, Senator Obama's policies would make it harder for women to start new businesses, harder for women to create or find new jobs, harder for women to manage the family budget, and harder for women and their families to meet their tax burden," he said. "That's what the difference is all about between myself and Senator Obama."
“There's no doubt that Wisconsin will be one of those states that decides who the next president of the United States is.”Republican presidential candidate John McCain
McCain outlined his plans to control health care costs, reduce government spending and address the nation's energy needs by tapping offshore oil supplies and building 45 nuclear power plants. He claims the construction and operation of those plants would create 700,000 jobs.
Audience questions ranged from addressing climate change to the football future of Brett Favre. One woman asked the presidential hopeful to look into problems with her late husband's pension.
Still, McCain recommended that every candidate hold similar meetings with voters.
"We should stand in front of you -- Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, vegetarian, whoever it is - and respond to your hopes and your dreams and aspirations, and your frustrations," said McCain. Not surprisingly, the crowd was heavily Republican. But Susan Cary-Hanson of St. Paul was among the invited guests who claimed to be undecided about the presidential race.
Cary-Hanson owns an Edina-based company called Precision Gasket, and she asked McCain why she should vote for him. He answered the question by stressing his record of working across the aisle with Democrats. Afterwards, Cary-Hanson said McCain won her support.
"The Republicans can't do it. The Democrats can't do it alone. I really think it's going to take the collaboration between both parties. And it certainly seems like he's committed to that, and that would get my vote," said Cary-Hanson.
While McCain stressed his ability to buck the party line, protesters who gathered outside the event were highlighting the candidate's connections to an unpopular president.
Scot Ross of the group OneWisconsinNow accused McCain of acting as a rubber stamp for the policies of President Bush.
"When it comes to virtually every issue -- Iraq, tax cuts for the rich, denying people health care, choice, prescription drugs, etc. -- John McCain has provided in the United States Senate a rubber stamp for the agenda of George Bush. And that agenda has put America's economy in the tank," said Ross.
The Obama campaign also tried to counter the McCain event by marking the opening of its Hudson office. Local Obama campaign leaders also hosted a community meeting to discuss their candidate's economic plan.