O’FALLON — In the roughly 90-degree heat, a mass of people wearing red shirts crowded into T.R. Hughes Ballpark on Sunday in O’Fallon, eagerly watching the stage as a country band played music.
Suddenly the crowd erupted with applause as Sen. John McCain’s bus pulled into the stadium.
The crowd gathered for John and Cindy McCain’s “Road to the Convention Rally” cheered as Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, the McCains, and John McCain’s newly selected running mate, Sarah Palin, walked onto the stage.
The crowd applauded after each of the Republicans gave a brief speech. Each speaker not only endorsed McCain, but encouraged the members of the crowd to be proactive in the effort to help those on the Gulf Coast, which is currently in a state of emergency due toHurricane Gustav.
The crowd erupted again as McCain began to speak, but his running mate, Palin, was the rally’s main event.
Palin, like her colleagues, started off by addressing the Gulf Coast issue and then began to describe the changes she intends to make in Washington and the progress she has made in Alaska as governor.
As Palin’s speech ended, the crowd began to chant, “Sarah! Sarah!”
One of the attendees, St. Charles resident Mary Lisic, 32, describes Palin as “a strong governor who has reformed Alaska and can help the rest of America reform as well.”
Lisic not only sees Palin as a strong politician, but can also relate to her on a personal level, “because we both call our husbands ‘dude,’” Lisic said, “and she talks like a normal person.”
Although Lisic’s vote was decided before McCain chose Palin, it was not until Lisic went to the rally that she realized that was not the case for everyone.
“I heard quite a few people today say that they were unsure of who they were voting for until McCain chose Palin,” she said.
Another member of the crowd, Randall Rosales, 19, also relates to Palin.
“She reminds me of my mom, who is a strong working woman who would fight for me,” he said.
Rosales sees Palin as a strong politician who can relate to working-class Americans and the average American family.
A student at St. Louis University, Rosales went to the rally with a few friends who planned to meet up with the SLU College Republicans, a group of about 20 students.
The SLU College Republicans were among many groups at the rally, including Missouri Women for John McCain, Democrats for John McCain, Sportsmen for John McCain, Americans of Faith for John McCain and Veterans for John McCain. Each group had tables set up with information about its cause.
Although the crowd was made up of a diverse group of people, most agreed on several issues as of high importance.
Experience was a key issue to many people in the crowd who felt the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, is lacking.
Among other issues important to McCain’s supporters at the rally were the war in Iraq and national security.
John Estill, a 38-year-old veteran, is among the people who feel strongly about these issues.
“I feel I can relate to McCain on personal level because of his military experience,” Estill said. “I find it hard to relate to Obama, just because he hasn’t been there.”
Although the people felt passionately about the candidates and the issues, the final chant of the night was not for John McCain or Sarah Palin, but “Open the gates!” The crowd was ready to head home and get out of the heat but was not allowed to leave until McCain was back on the bus.