KENOVA - John McCain's stop in West Virginia was brief Wednesday. He got off his campaign plane and onto another version of the "Straight Talk Express," his campaign bus.
The presumed Republican nominee had been in Pittsburgh earlier in the day and was on his way to Portsmouth, Ohio, for a town hall meeting when his plane landed at Tri-State Airport in Kenova.
Five West Virginia political and business leaders greeted him as he went from aircraft to land craft before speeding off in an entourage of vehicles.
It was a scene many expect McCain and presumed Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., will repeat as the campaign continues and they struggle for every last vote in neighboring Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, states both candidates need to win.
Most expect West Virginia, with only five electoral votes, to be only a "touch-down" state.
The state's electoral votes were important to George W. Bush, who carried West Virginia in his two narrow victories. Those wins came despite voter registration numbers that give Democrats a more than 2-to-1 edge.
Huntington lawyer David Tyson, a former state GOP chairman, is one who expects McCain to actively campaign across the Mountain State.
"Absolutely," said Tyson, who was one of those on hand to greet McCain. "I don't think there's any question about it."
McCain was the only GOP candidate who did not attend the state party's convention in February.
Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, believes polls showing McCain substantially ahead of Obama in the state, but also thinks McCain will campaign in the Mountain State.
"I think West Virginia is very important to him," she said while standing on Tri-State's tarmac. "We tend to be conservative people."
The Arizona Republican last visited West Virginia in May, when he addressed supporters at a St. Albans gun shop.
Tyson, Miller, Republican Cabell County Commissioner Nancy Cartmill, Chris Alford, vice president of Alford Pest Control, and Mike Emerson, president of Huntington Steel, all got to shake hands with McCain and his wife, Cindy.
"I welcomed them to our state," Miller said.
Tyson said McCain did a double take after he spotted the McCain for president button he was wearing, and shook Tyson's hand a second time.
He and Emerson spoke earlier at a news conference for state small-business owners who favor McCain.
Emerson said he likes McCain's Jobs for America economic plan.
"We are facing extraordinary challenges in the changing economy and John McCain has a comprehensive plan to overcome the economic obstacles by placing a premium on the importance of small businesses so that we can continue to create jobs and help grow the economy," he said earlier.
Emerson is the fifth generation of his family to head the steel firm that employs 140 people in three states.
His family founded the steel firm and has owned it since 1904.
"The other issue important to us is the estate tax," Emerson said.
Tyson said McCain has not pledged to end the tax but, "Sen. McCain will act to keep it low."
Both men were concerned about any potential tax increases that might occur under an Obama presidency.
The Democrats' tax ideas "would hurt small business, which are the backbone of West Virginia," Tyson said.
"If Sen. Obama becomes the next president of the United States, Huntington Steel will be affected," Emerson said.
They both questioned Obama's pledge to make changes in NAFTA.
McCain's West Virginia supporters had to scramble after his national campaign announced Monday that he would be at Tri-State on Wednesday.
Previously, they had scheduled a news conference with small-business owners and state Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam, for 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Albans.
That all quickly changed and a new group of business owners were sent to the airport, where they held the news conference around noon in support of McCain's Jobs for America economic plan.
McCain unveiled the plan on Monday in Colorado.
Reach staff writer Tom Searls at
tomsea...@wvgazette.com or 348-5198.