JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin pledged to lower taxes and get big government out of the lives of everyday people in a stump speech Wednesday designed to shore up voters in the now hotly contested Indiana presidential race.
Organizers were expecting more than 10,000 people to attend the rally at a private warehouse in Jeffersonville, a bedroom community to Louisville. Kentucky Republicans expected thousands of people from the Bluegrass state to cross the river to attend.
Traffic was backed up for miles on Interstate 65 going into the event — many people with tickets couldn't make it to the gates before the Alaska governor began her speech shortly after 7:30 p.m.
Palin stuck to central messages of the McCain-Palin campaign — that a vote for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his running mate Joseph Biden was a vote for big government and more taxes.
"Indiana, you shouldn't be working for government," she told the crowd. "Our government should work for you."
Palin also pledged that she and McCain would end the country's dependence on foreign oil.
She spoke of an energy policy that includes an "all-of-the-above approach," including increasing domestic drilling for oil and developing clean coal technologies as well as alternative energy sources.
"We will develop clean-coal technology," Palin said. "We will safely drill here and now."
The raucous crowd then began the now-famous chant of "drill, baby, drill." The crowd, many of whom carried signs with catch phrases from the Republican campaign, also broke out into the chant of "Sarah, Sarah, Sarah," during her approximately 40-minute speech.
Palin also pledged to be a friend to families with children with special needs. She has an infant son, Trig, who has Down syndrome.
During her speech, Palin pointed to a sign carried by one parent that said their child was also "exxtra" special like Trig, referring to the extra chromosome that children with Down syndrome have.
"John and I have a vision of a American where every innocent life counts," Palin said to applause.
She also reminded the crowd that McCain was the only candidate in the race who was a veteran. McCain is a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war.
"There is only one man in this race who has ever really fought for you," Palin said.
Her speech in Jeffersonville came less than a week after Obama drew a crowd of about 10,000 in Indianapolis.
Indiana, which has not voted for a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 in a national election, is now up in the air. Recent polls show that the candidates are nearly neck and neck in the polls.
Obama's campaign has more than 40 offices in the Hoosier state, and Obama has logged hundreds of hours on Indiana roads since before the May Democratic primary.
Palin has spent a lot of time in Indiana in recent weeks as the race has tightened there. Jeffersonville was her third stop in Indiana this month. She was in Indianapolis two weeks ago and was in Fort Wayne, in the far northern corner of the state, last week.
In Kentucky, McCain enjoys a lead of 16 percentage points over Obama, according to a Herald-Leader/WKYT Kentucky Poll released last week.