McCain admits he's behind in rare N. Carolina campaign stop

WILMINGTON - Sen. John McCain, conceding he is behind in the presidential race, cast himself Monday as the fighter America needs to face its enemies abroad and to restore the economy at home.

"The national media has written us off," McCain told 2,500 people at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington. "Senator Obama is measuring the drapes.

"But they forgot to let you decide. Friends, we got them just where we want them. What America needs in this hour is a fighter."

McCain's visit to Wilmington was his first public appearance in North Carolina in the general election. His Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, has campaigned in the state five times and sharply outspent him on advertising and staffing. Obama has aired a television ad specific to North Carolina, linking the closure of Maiden-based Carolina Mills factories to McCain's support for free-trade measures.

McCain is being forced to play defense in North Carolina and in Virginia -- two upper-tier Southern states that have been reliably Republican in recent presidential elections. McCain sent his running mate, Sarah Palin, into North Carolina last week and she is scheduled to return for a fundraiser in Greensboro and a rally at Elon University on Thursday. Plans are being laid for McCain to attend a rally in Charlotte on Saturday.

And after Monday's rally, McCain went to a residential area in Wilmington to film a campaign commercial.

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