McCain, Thompson plan visits to Rock Hill

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and presumed GOP candidate Fred Thompson are expected to make their first visits to York County this month as they rally support before South Carolina's GOP primary.

McCain will speak on Sept. 15 at either the American Legion building or the VFW headquarters in Rock Hill, said York County GOP Chairman Glenn McCall.

Thompson hasn't scheduled a date or venue, but McCall said Thompson's people called Thursday to ask whether the Rock Hill/York County Airport is big enough for a private jet to land.

"If it's too big, we'll just come up to Charlotte and pick him up," McCall said.

Thompson plans to visit during a campaign kickoff tour next month that will take him through Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, McCall said.

McCain is one of the few declared GOP candidates who hasn't yet visited the Rock Hill area this campaign season. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the other, and he's expected to be here in October.

Once considered the front-runner for his party's nomination, McCain has struggled in part because of his unpopular stances on immigration and the war in Iraq. He drastically reduced his staff this summer to cut payroll.

"People are just disenchanted with the whole immigration bill," McCall said. "We have to get over that. Let it go, and let's move forward."

The question is whether McCain can regain enough momentum to overtake Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the early primaries, including South Carolina's Jan. 19 contest. Each of those candidates likely will face a challenge from Thompson, the former Tennessee senator who is expected to enter the race next week.

In South Carolina, McCain has earned backing from the likes of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster. But his campaign hasn't cultivated a high-profile network in York County, other than an endorsement from County Councilman Curwood Chappell.

In other campaign news, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas makes his second trip to York County on Monday when he visits Fort Mill's Regent Park. Brownback will speak at 7 p.m. in the Regal Manor Clubhouse on the former Heritage USA grounds.

On the Democratic side, talk continues to circulate that U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York will open a campaign headquarters in Rock Hill in the next few weeks. U.S. Sen. Joe Biden's campaign has said the Delaware Democrat plans to visit York County soon.