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John McCain visits 'forgotten places' (hoping swing voters recall)

April 21, 2008 | 12:28 pm

As Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue to lambaste one another, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain continues to fly above it all, enjoying the luxury of embarking upon unorthodox campaign forays that he hopes will pay dividends in the general election.

A couple of weeks back, he traipsed across the country on a "bio tour," visiting places that provided a Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona speaks on the banks of the Alabama River in Selma has he starts his forgotten places campaign tour backdrop for him -- on his own terms -- to flesh out his life story. Some questioned its political usefulness, but at the local level he received lots of positive press.

Today, he began a swing through what his campaign termed "forgotten places" -- locales that, as a McCain news release put it, have been "left behind by our nation's elected leaders." And his first stop certainly was unusual for a member of his party -- Selma, Ala., site of infamous beatings of civil rights marchers during a 1965 demonstration and part of a congressional district that Democrat John Kerry carried by almost 30 percentage points over President Bush in 2004.

The Times' Maeve Reston is on the trip, and she reports that, at least on the surface, the juxtaposition between the community's demographics and the makeup of the crowd that gathered to hear McCain speak on the banks of the Alabama River (pictured above) may not have been what his staff was hoping for. Selma and its environs are predominantly black; McCain's audience was nearly all-white.

That apparently bothered the candidate not one whit.

“I am aware of the fact that there will be many people who will not vote for me," he said. "But I’m going to be the president of all the people and I will work ...

for all the people and I will listen to all people -- whether they decide to vote for me or not,” he said to a scattering of applause. “I’m going to places, frankly, in this country where there is the greatest need, and whether, at the end of the day, they choose to vote for me or not, is not my major purpose.”

“My major purpose is if I understand the challenges -- and they are enormous -- that they face today, I will be a far better president of the United States.”

That may not win McCain many more votes from African Americans or other reliable Democratic blocs. But it's a message that may well resonate with swing voters who, barring a twist in the fall that produces a blowout for either side, should be the ones who decide November's victor.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press