Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, arrived at the Burlington International Airport without all the frills and security one might expect from a former presidential nominee. After stopping for coffee, it was off to a private fundraiser for Republican Senate hopeful Len Britton followed by a public rally.
"My friends, there's a wave going on across this country. It is a wave of anger and frustration about the way that we do business in Washington," McCain said.
McCain told the crowd of mostly veterans that Britton will bring fresh energy to the Senate. He also chastised his long-time colleague and the man Britton is trying to unseat, Sen. Patrick Leahy, for bragging about earmarks and pork he's secured for Vermont.
"My friends I can tell you know because I've seen it, that it's corruption, it's wrong, it's a waste and terrible misuse of taxpayers' dollars," McCain said.
"We in Vermont believe that without Pat Leahy in the U.S. Senate this state would not exist, and I'm here to tell you we'll do just fine without him down there," Britton said. "I plan to go down there to try to shake things up, roll up my sleeves and do the heavy lifting that needs to be done to change the way we do business in Washington."
Recent polls show Britton trailing Leahy by about 35 points but McCain says Britton has been gaining national attention, especially because of his humorous commercials.
"There's a growing perception that this could be one of the sleeper races of the country," McCain said. "Yeah we've seen the polls but we've also seen the intensity level increasing and we've seen the numbers increasing."
Despite that supposed intensity the rally drew a crowd of only about 160 people. Britton chalks that up to its timing-- on a Tuesday afternoon when most people are at work.
Leahy reacted to McCain's visit by saying he is surprised Britton would bring someone so out of touch with Vermont to campaign on his behalf. Leahy points out that McCain voted with former President George W. Bush 89 percent of the time and says that by aligning himself with those ultra-conservative positions Vermont voters have a clear idea of what they can expect from Britton.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie, who organized McCain's presidential bid two years ago, did not attend the rally. Dubie's campaign said it's because he is about creating jobs in Vermont and strengthening Vermont's economy, and that he was busy talking about that plan in Addison County Tuesday.
Political watchers however suspect it might be because Dubie is trying to distance himself from McCain, who is not very popular in Vermont. Vermont was the first state McCain lost during his presidential bid in 2008.
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