Sen. John McCain faced a booing crowd today for rebuking a man who said he would be "scared ... to bring a child up" if Sen. Barack Obama was elected president. "I have to tell you he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States," McCain said.
McCain supporters have become increasingly vocal during the past two days, voicing their concerns about Obama, but using the long discredited rhetoric that he is Muslim, a terrorist or an Arab. When McCain has come to Obama's defends, the crowds have booed him.
One woman at a town-hall meeting in Minnesota told McCain, "I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not he's not uh—he's an Arab. He's not—" before McCain reached out for the microphone and told the rally: "No, ma'am, he's a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not an Arab."
Jonathan Martin and Amiee Parnes of Politico pick up the story:
In addition to the man who said he feared Obama as president, another predicted the Democrat would “lead the country to socialism.”
“The time has come and the Bible tells us you speak the truth and that the truth sets you free,” the man added.
Yet another voter implored McCain in plain terms: "The people here in Minnesota want to see a real fight."
McCain promised the audience he wouldn’t back down—but again sought to tamp down emotions.
"We want to fight, and I will fight," McCain said. "But I will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments and I will respect him."
At which point he was booed again.
"I don't mean that has to reduce your ferocity," he added over the jeers. "I just mean to say you have to be respectful."
The anger is plainly worrying McCain and his campaign. Already viewed with skepticism by the conservative base, they don’t want to throw a proverbial wet blanket over the enthusiasm of the worker bees of the party. But they also fear a backlash from less partisan—and still undecided—voters seeing clips of the angry activists on TV and online.
“He’s not going to stand there while somebody says something he disagrees with and not make his view known,” said Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman after the Minnesota event. “He’s never been afraid to get boos from his own audience. That’s always been John McCain’s thing.”
But Rogers said the campaign would continue its own increasingly character-based line of assault.
“There are legitimate questions about Barack Obama. We’re going to raise them and do that compellingly. But when people go over the line in John McCain’s opinion he’ll be open and honest about it.”
Asked if some of the shots McCain and Palin have taken against Obama on the stump and in TV ads may be contributing to the raw emotions, Rogers said such sentiments were “garbage.”
“The idea that we should not question Obama’s record and readiness to be president is offensive to democracy,” he said.