ELON — Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for vice president, challenged North Carolina voters Thursday to choose Sen. John McCain's promise to balance the federal budget in four years, bring tax relief to every American and drill for offshore oil.
Before an energetic crowd that nearly filled a baseball field at Elon University, Palin urged voters to reject what she described as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's plan to redistribute wealth and raise taxes.
"It's the choice between a politician who puts his faith in government," Palin said, "and a true leader who puts his faith in you."
Thousands packed the sun-blazed field in support of Palin, including five students who painted her name on their bare chests, along with a sixth who painted an exclamation point.
The crowd clearly felt Palin had been underestimated by both Republican leadership and the national media.
"People pick on her homespun-ness," said Steffen Schultz, a 59-year-old transplant from Connecticut to a farm in King. "She's a woman and keeps her femininity, and she still can be feisty."
Palin trumpeted McCain's performance in Wednesday night's presidential debate, saying he will reform the waste that led to the nation's financial crisis.
"John McCain is going to Washington to work for Joe the Plumber," said Palin, referring to the everyman voter who became the star of Wednesday's debate.
Palin drew cheers, but the loudest reception came for country music star Hank Williams Jr., who performed a song he wrote for the campaign to the tune of his hit "Family Tradition."
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