NORFOLK, Va. -- The latest claim made by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) -- that everyone is his friend, is being denied by voters across the nation, including those at Belmont University in Tennessee, where the debate took place Tuesday night.
In the 90-minute debate that centered around the economy and foreign policy, the Arizona senator repeatedly referred to voters as "his friends," a claim that has since been disproven by both voters and Obama staffers.
Previously undecided, 56-year-old Dan Carpenter, of Nashville, said although he previously leaned toward McCain, he is now an Obama supporter, due to the 72-year-old's claim of being his friend.
"I know politicians lie, but to lie and say that he's my friend, yet he's never sat down and even have a drink with me, that's bold," Carpenter, a retired truck driver, said. "He's never spoken to me in his life, but he limped in here and said he's my friend. That's unacceptable."
In North Carolina, where polls show a deadheat between Obama and McCain, voters were also shocked at the implications that they are McCain's friends.
"Friends do things together, they cook and hang out together, and they go out and play basketball and volleyball together," said Jeffrey Purvis of Chapel Hill. "This guy can't even raise his arm over his head, how am I expected to be his friend if he can't even play sports with me?"
More than just trying to court the friendship of older voters, McCain has also drummed up efforts to be friends with younger first-time voters, who traditionally have voted Democratic.
After the debate and into Wednesday morning, McCain staffers worked through the night by logging on to the social networking site Facebook, and under McCain's name, "friended" approximately 250,000 voters in key swing states, to include Virginia and Pennsylvania.
One of the people McCain friended, Old Dominion Univeristy's 19-year-old sophomore Heather Smith said she saw the friend request after logging onto her Facebook account this morning.
"At first, I thought, 'wow, grandpa got Facebook,'" the Virginia Beach, Va., native said. "Then I realized it was just some old man who not only friended me, but also poked me, I got creeped out and denied the request."
The move to befriend voters is yet another effort by the McCain campaign to regain momentum in a campaign that, in recent weeks, has seen support decline. Although part of the reason has to do with McCain's policy and his selection of vice-president in Sarah Palin, party insiders say it also has to do with McCain's propensity to explode in moments of rage. This not only resulted in loss of friends, but also political support, a former staffer said.
In Biloxi, Miss., for example, McCain yelled at a local supporter, suggesting the supporter is a communist before strangling him.
"I wanted to be his friend, but I don't anymore," said Long Nguyen, the local fisherman who migrated from Vietnam in 1981. "I wanted to shake his hand, but he call me VC and strangle me ...now I not his friend anymore."
As his suport declines, McCain has also seen a decline in friends, a phenomanon staffers say isn't a suprise to them. One current staffer, who admitted he recently applied for a position for the Obama campaign, said currently, McCain's closest friends are his two dogs - although at times, the canines seem to be distant from him as well.
"Dogs are loyal, loyal creatures," the staffer, who spoke under anomonity, said. "But I've seen them get tired of him. Part of the reasons is that when they want to play catch, and he decides to throw the ball, it only goes about two feet, and the dogs just become disinterested after a while."
Yet another reason for McCain's decline in support, observers say, is his maverick attitude. While McCain prides himself in reaching across party lines, many say the attitude shows party disloyalty, thus taking away from Republican support. For Democrats, McCain seems untrustworthy and does not share ideologies they believe in. As a result, politicians from both sides of the isle have distanced away from the GOP nominee.
For political scientist Marc Loi, McCain's latest strategy in claiming everyone is his friend is a last-ditch effort at connecting with the American people - one Loi says he does not foresee as being a success.
"John McCain has made a lot of claims," Loi said from his home in Norfolk, Va. "He says he's a maverick, he is not; he says he is more women's rights, he's not; and now he says he's everyone's friend, he is not - I've yet spoken with anyone who says they are his friend or want to be his friend. You cannot go be expected to be president if no one wants to be your friend."
For McCain, Loi continued, this will be a case of both friendship and presidential ambitions denied.