From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
MERIDIAN, Miss. -- With a 20-minute long familial history here this morning, John McCain kicked off what his campaign is formally calling the "Service to America" tour meant to reintroduce McCain to voters. But if today was any indication, the tour could accurately be renamed "Faith of my Fathers on Stage."
This morning's speech was a Cliffs Notes version of the McCain Family story found in the senator's best-selling autobiography -- written with assistance from senior advisor Mark Salter. The message of the speech focused on how the military service of his ancestors inspired him to serve his country as well.
"The family I was born to, and the family I am blessed with now, made me the man I am, and instilled in me a deep and abiding respect for the social institution that wields the greatest influence in the formation of our individual character and the character of our society," McCain said. "Government must be attentive to the impact of its policies on families so that it does not through inattention or arrogance make it harder for parents to have the resources to succeed in the greatest work of their lives -- raising their children."
The several hundred people seated in the audience sat quietly for the first 15 minutes of McCain's talk before applauding loudly when the candidate called for the federal government to be mindful of its effects on the American family.
Going forward, McCain visits his high school and college in the coming days when he is expected to outline how his education shaped his character and prepared him for the presidency.
*** UPDATE *** Howard Dean's response to the McCain tour, via the DNC: "John McCain deserves our respect for his service to our country, but no reinvention tour can change the fact that a vote for him is a vote for four more years of President Bush's failed policies. No matter how many times he tries to reintroduce himself, the voters already know that John McCain is out of touch with the challenges facing working families, admits he doesn't understand the economy, and is willing to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years. John McCain can talk about his past, but only a Democrat can bring the change the American people want for the future."