I have a new story on the homepage about today’s McCain/Palin rally in Fairfax, Virginia, which the McCain people tell me was McCain’s biggest campaign event ever:
When McCain and running mate Sarah Palin appeared this morning at Van Dyck Park, in the city of Fairfax, Virginia, the people spilled out of the natural amphitheater, over the sides, out the back, and nearly all the way to the Old Lee Highway. The rally had originally been scheduled for Fairfax High School, but some school board members objected. With controversy brewing, the McCain campaign moved the event to the park. It was a good idea; the high school facility could handle 6,500 people, which would have been a huge crowd in pre-Palin days. But today, the school wouldn’t have been nearly big enough. After the rally, McCain officials told me 23,000 people had been there. Even if that estimate was a little high, it was still McCain’s biggest rally ever — and that, at mid-morning on a weekday.
The message of the day, at least the word circulating among people in the crowd, was hope. This was a group of Republicans that — they’ll admit this now — had pretty much given up hope a few months ago. Now, with McCain’s selection of Palin as his running mate, things are different. “I think we really have a chance now,” a woman named Shirley, of Fairfax, told me. “It’s amazing.”
Everybody else seemed to think the same thing. I approached a woman named Carolyn, from Arlington, who told me she helped found the Independent Women’s Forum several years ago. “I am so proud of what she represents,” Carolyn said of Palin. “I wish my friend Barbara Olson were here to see this, because she would be thrilled. This is an incredible moment.”
I asked Carolyn whether she had been a strong supporter of McCain before the Palin announcement. “No, not so much,” she said. “A month ago, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the race, but now I am. I was a rather disenchanted Republican, as were many of my friends.”
I asked why she had not been happy with McCain.
“I’d rather not go there,” she answered.
“For the obvious reasons?” I said.
“For the obvious reasons. I’m a Reagan conservative and he’s not.”
Perhaps it’s too early to say that, as far as the GOP base is concerned, all is forgiven for McCain. But judging by today’s crowd, I’d say a lot is forgiven.