Monday, July 14, 2008

No Speeches. No Soundbites. Just Straight Talk!

Sometimes reporter’s head to work knowing there’s going to be a great story ahead of them that day. I knew today was going to be special. Last Friday, after morning reporting chores, and a few beat calls, I received a call from my boss, 770KKOB News Director Pat Allen. He said Sen. John McCain’s campaign staff had invited one representative from the station to ride with the candidate from the airport to the Hilton hotel on the infamous Straight Talk Express.

After a weekend of studying every national issue, I arrived at Cutter Aviation south of the Sunport just before 3pm. Two hours later McCain’s charter jet arrived during a light rainfall. After we settled into the back of the bus, McCain told me he brought the rain with him. Jeff Jones at the ABQ Journal suggested it might translate into some votes.

Here’s the AUDIO of our 24-minute interview.

On Tuesday we'll have more audio from a special trip with the McCain campaign and sound from the sold out Town Hall meeting so check back with us here.

During the ride to his hotel, Senator McCain told the group of five invited journalist he thinks voters in New Mexico will support him this fall.

“We’re neighboring states,” the Arizona Senator said. “I understand the issues and the challenges. Senator Barack Obama has no experience and no judgment on these issues.”

McCain told me he’d like to have Barack Obama accept an invitation to have joint Town Hall Meetings similar to the one he’s hosting at the Hotel Albuquerque on Tuesday morning.

With 17 percent of New Mexico living below the poverty line I asked him what he’d do for rural New Mexicans who have been hit hard with job layoffs and gas prices.

“Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” McCain confidently replied. “I also think they deserve a Gasoline Tax Holiday.”

McCain also talked about the estate tax and says he plans to extend President Bush's tax cuts, which would keep the top tax rate for long-term capital gains at 15 percent for most people. The cuts are set to expire at the end of 2010. More in the Seattle Times.

“If you want someone to raise your taxes, I'm not your candidate,” chuckled McCain.

The 72-year old politician also told us, on our short trip north on I-25, that energy independence needs to be a national mission. He says he’ll expand the national labs, including Sandia and Los Alamos, mission. He says he’ll invest in them for pure research and development.

“There’s a lot of talent out there. We need to invest in it,” McCain noted.

The candidate also says gas prices will drop when the country announces it will start drilling off our shores. Earlier in the day President George Bush dropped the ban on drilling. Perhaps McCain’s theory will be tested soon.

McCain says Americans send 700 Billion to countries that “don't like us very much." He say, "it’s a complete transfer of wealth."

McCain told us near the end of the interview that he believes New Mexico will be a battleground state, and that his record and knowledge of border state issues should help him win the five electoral votes up for grabs here.

McCain differentiated himself from Barack Obama with a list of policy and issue difference.

McCain say's he’s Pro-Life and "Obama favors partial birth abortions" which he says Hispanic families don't agree with. He also says his support of small businesses, and the military should carry him to the White House.

He also says he’s a Federalist and supports New Mexico’s right to create a medical Marijuana program despite his belief that it’s a gateway drug. Yet in his home doctors are not prescribing Marijuana due a the Supreme Court ruling citing a federal ban. Currently, 12 states have legalized Medical Marijuana use, according to NORMAL, the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws. They include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

McCain who flew to Albuquerque from a the National La Raza Convention in San Diego, told us “Americans want the border secured first, but he believes a comprehensive immigration reform bill can be passed soon. He say’s the country needs to rely on governors like Bill Richardson to secure the border. McCain believes the Federal Government needs to provide more high tech equipment to assist Border Control Guards.

McCain also says while he stayed out of the primary he was looking forward to visiting with Rep. Heather Wilson at a private fundraising dinner.

“I admire her very much, even if she did go to the Air Force Academy,” said the Naval Veteran.

McCain says he thinks this week’s New Yorker was tasteless and offensive. See it here.

And he says Sen. Obama’s weekend Op-ed in the New York Times doesn"t match his record in the Senate.

“He opposed the surge,” McCain says of Obama. “Now he's saying we have to access the situation. He's refused to acknowledge the surge has worked. He's been to Iraq once and never asked for a meeting with General Petraus. How does he know if the surge worked or not if he hasn't talked to the commander. I'll be glad to see what he says after his visit to Iraq.”

To learn more about what McCain said about preserving New Mexico's "pristine wilderness" visit Heath Haussamen's blog.

Local photos: MG Bralley

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