MESA, Ariz. – In the latest display of the tension that is permeating the national debate, a pair of protesters twice disrupted Sarah Palin’s rally with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Saturday. As the former Alaska governor began to praise the Tea Party movement, a young man shouted at McCain for supporting the bailout.
“Young man, stick around and listen to what we’re going to say, sir, maybe you’ll learn something,” Palin said. She then paused for several minutes while the man, who began fighting with the McCain supporters around him, was forcibly ejected by staff and volunteers. “Someday we’ll realize that John McCain spent five and half years as a POW in efforts to defend our constitution, which gives him the right [to protest],” she said.
The man was subsequently ejected from the gym at Dobson High School by campaign staffers and members of the crowd who gripped him firmly by his head and arms. The protesters were not arrested, police said.
Palin quickly pivoted back to her stump speech, condemning the recent reports of political violence. “Violence isn’t the answer and none of us here are going to condone any sort of violence,” she said. “Don’t let this be a diversion, what you see on the news the last couple of days; ‘cause it is a bunch of bunk.”
McCain didn’t mention the outburst in his speech; rather, he again zeroed in on the Democrats’ healthcare legislation. He decried the “sleazy, Chicago-style sausage making” that led to the bill’s passage. “Repeal and replace,” he frequently repeated to the delight of the some 2,500 supporters, many of whom were seniors.
McCain also tried to link himself to the Tea Party movement. “We’re going to register people to vote, we’re going to get ‘em out, we’re going to continue the tea parties and the demonstrations and the message to Obama, and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi is repeal and replace, repeal and replace,” he said.
McCain said he was delighted that Palin came to Arizona to campaign with him. “I predict to you that Sarah Palin will be around for a long, long time,” McCain said, to cheers.
Reps. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) emerged before McCain and Palin to encourage the crowd to vote out their Democratic colleagues in the House.
“We may have lost one battle last Sunday night in Washington, but the next level of this fight occurs on Election Day in November and we’re going to win that fight,” said Shadegg, who’s retiring at the end of his current term.
Shadegg called for repealing the Democrats’ healthcare reform bill, which drew a cheer from the crowd. But Flake warned there are other pieces of legislation to consider.
“It’s not just the healthcare that we have to worry about. There are other big-government policies waiting to come down the road,” Flake said, citing the Employee Free Choice Act and the cap-and-trade bill.
As McCain spoke, some in the audience filed toward the exits -- a sign that the former Republican presidential ticket doesn't share the same base of support.
Kathryn Mouser, a small-business owner from nearby Chandler, said she was “very disappointed” to see Palin supporting McCain in the Senate primary. “I did come to see Sarah, but was very disappointed in her on the trail for him,” Mouser said outside the rally.
She planned to support McCain’s primary opponent, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.
“Personally for me, my big issue, living in this state, is getting the illegals out and McCain wants to give ‘em amnesty. J.D. is dead-set against it,” she said.
Others haven’t been swayed by Hayworth’s campaign. “I don’t know that much about him,” said Al Baron, a resident of Sun Lakes. “I’m going to stick with McCain.”