Fresno, CA (CNSNews.com) - Arizona Senator John McCain swept through California's 400-mile long Central Valley on Tuesday - with campaign stops in Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield - in an effort to gain voter support for the March primary in this heavily-populated state.
In Fresno, a town hall meeting was held at a local university and included a healthy crowd of college students. First-time voters, who often have no party affiliations, were targeted by McCain, who says he wants to inspire young people to get involved in American politics.
"In New Hampshire we won a big victory. We won by 19 points, with thousands and thousands of same-day voter registrations. In Michigan, 21 percent of the voters had never voted before and that was our margin of victory," McCain said.
McCain's message was one of reform and inclusion and an appeal to members outside of the Republican Party.
"I'm the one that Independents and Democrats are coming over to. I'm the one with reform and the promise to build up America," he said.
McCain informed attendees of the Fresno rally that the Republican Party is not just on the far right of the political spectrum.
"The Republican Party is the party of Abe Lincoln, not Pat Robertson. We have the party of Ronald Reagan, not Bob Jones," he said.
While he preached the idea of inclusion over exclusion, McCain called Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchannan "agents of intolerance" and noted that if he wins the primary all Republicans would not be behind him.
The appeal of his and his forefather's armed service record was not lost on Fresno attendees as McCain told POW stories to draw in the retired and active military in attendance. He vowed as president to get veterans the medical care and service they deserve.
"Thirty thousand WWII veterans are dying every month, and we are not giving them the medical care and services we promised when they risked their lives for our country," McCain said.
He lamented the disarray of the military and promised, if elected, that he would be a chief that members of the armed forces could look up to and respect.
McCain shared his opinion on where the country's surplus should go and contrasted his plans with those of Texas Governor George Bush.
The working family needs a tax cut, McCain said, so 40 percent of the surplus will go back to Americans. He wants to put 60 percent of the surplus into social security and Medicare.
"More young people believe that Elvis is alive than believe they will ever get a Social Security check," he said. "Governor Bush wants to give 38 percent of the surplus back to the wealthy and not a penny for Medicare, social security, and paying down the debt."
The presidential hopeful also carried a message of reforming the tax code, which he called a cornucopia of good deals for corporations and a chamber of horrors for the average citizen.
McCain promised to close the corporate loopholes and veto big spending bills.
"I've taken on the Iron Triangle and they are taking on me...I am going to get rid of these special interests that have corrupted American politics and give it back to the people," he said.
On Wednesday, McCain is scheduled for appearances in Southern California, including stops in Riverside, Los Angeles and a rally in Orange County's Little Saigon.