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McCain defies Bush on environment

HUDSON, Wis. - Sen. John McCain drove home one point time and again during his campaign swing through Minnesota and Wisconsin - "straight talk" is more than a campaign slogan to him.

For instance, he drew a strong contrast between him and fellow Republican President Bush over environmental issues.

The Republican presidential candidate used the "straight talk" term several times during his hour and a half visit to J and L Steel Erectors in Hudson, where he met an almost-all-women audience that asked questions similar to a St. Paul town hall meeting three weeks earlier.

McCain, who visited his St. Paul headquarters Thursday night, was well received by the mostly Republican audience in a Hudson industrial park, answering 14 questions after an opening statement in which he promoted his economic package as being good for women.

McCain's strongest statements came when he criticized Bush's environmental record.

"As you know, I have had a strong disagreement with the administration on climate change," he said.

Telling the audience that he traveled to environmentally important areas extensively at government expense, he said global warming is real.

However, he added, even if it is not real, and the federal government works to fix the problem, "then all we have done is given our kids a cleaner planet."

The Arizona senator said environmentally friendly businesses are key to the future American economy.

McCain fielded 14 questions during the town hall meeting, his preferred venue. And he criticized his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, for failing to accept his offer to attend joint town hall meetings.

In preparation for McCain's Minnesota and Wisconsin visit, Democrats repeated their charge that McCain would give Americans a third President Bush term. On his bus, he said voters will not buy that.

Before the Hudson meeting, McCain told five Minnesota reporters that he has many disagreements with the Bush administration beyond the environment.

"The American people did not get to know me yesterday," McCain said.

For instance, McCain added, he has opposed many Bush initiatives.

As McCain was talking to the reporters, his Straight Talk Express bus was speeding past Minnesota corn fields en route to the Wisconsin town hall meeting. It was then that he said the federal government has no business subsidizing farmers who grow that crop, or any other.

"Let the market work," he said, adding that besides corn subsidies he opposes tariffs on imported sugar and all other agriculture commodities.

While supporting corn-based ethanol, he said that the federal government should not pay farmers. Subsidies distort the market, he said.

"We have to encourage ways to make that (ethanol) product usable," he said.

All Brazil gasoline stations sell E85 gasoline - containing 85 percent ethanol - and the same should happen in this country, McCain said.

But Washington cannot just eliminate farmer subsidies, the Republican presidential candidate added. International markets also must be opened up, he said, without going into detail about how he would do that.

When he arrived in Hudson, about 800 women greeted McCain at a town hall meeting that was supposed to deal with women business issues. But, instead, it dealt with topics ranging from nuclear power to immigration.

"I am committed" to making sure women have more business opportunities, he said in opening remarks.

During his Minnesota and Wisconsin campaign swing, McCain repeatedly reminded voters that those states and others in the area would be battleground states in the presidential race.