The McCain campaign misled thousands of its supporters in Virginia today, disappointing many of them in the process.
Last week, the campaign announced that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin would be appearing at a rally in Richmond. The venue was to be the Arthur Ashe Center.
The response was so overwhelming that, two days before the rally (which was scheduled for Columbus Day), it was announced that the venue had been changed to the Richmond International Raceway in Henrico County.
According to the raceway's web site, it can seat up to 112,000 people. So it was not much of a stretch to think that there would be no problem in finding seats for the thousands of people likely to attend.
Attendance was sure to be high, especially since the weather forecast was for clear and sunny conditions with temperatures in the mid- to high 70s -- summer weather for mid-October. Since Monday was a holiday, many people would be free from work and school and able to attend. (Others, of course, would just play hooky.)
To the surprise of many, rather than holding the rally inside the racetrack, campaign organizers had erected temporary bleachers on the RIR parking lot, bleachers which could hold about 2,500 people -- 3,000 if they really were packed tight.
That left 15,000 to 20,000 people standing in line when the rally area was filled up, and standing outside the security perimeter when the rally began and the signs began to wave and the music began to play.
I was lucky. I was among those who got the "best of the worst" in the standing room area -- flush up agains the security fence with a clear view of the podium (so I was actually able to get some good video and photos -- see below).
Others were not so lucky, and were so far away from the action that even the heavy-duty sound system was not sufficient to make Governor Palin's speech audible for them. (Chants of "louder, louder" could be heard from that section of the audience, only to be misinterpreted by the candidate as heckling.)
Had the McCain campaign announced that the rally would be held "on the grounds of the Richmond International Raceway," I would not be so critical of it for being misleading. Sometimes accuracy is the best public relations.
Let's just hope, for the sake of John McCain and Sarah Palin, that this discourteous treatment of supporters and potential voters did not also dissuade some of them from casting their ballots for the Republican ticket on November 4.
With that bit of scolding out of the way, let me turn to a new target.
Sarah Palin announced, before her stump speech, that she had brought "a special guest" with her from Virginia Beach. That guest turned out to be the son of country-music legend Hank Williams, who was invited to sing the national anthem.
What a mistake that turned out to be!
Singing without accompaniment, Hank Williams, Jr. -- most famous in his own right for composing the theme song for Monday Night Football on ABC -- absolutely butchered "The Star Spangled Banner." He started off-key, and only got worse from there.
Put in as kindly a fashion as possible, Williams delivered an idiosyncratic rendering of our national anthem -- and I use "render" in the sense of "tearing into pieces." He was off the beat, improvised his own melody, and just about embarrassed himself and Governor Palin in the process.
Were it not for the crowd singing along -- and singing it correctly -- Williams would have been booed off the stage. And he would have deserved it. His performance made one long for Roseanne Barr.
Want proof? Here's the video.
I have posted more photos from the Richmond International Raceway rally over on Facebook.