Presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain traveled through West Virginia just long enough Wednesday to shake a few hands and get on a bus, but his supporters say the positive effects of a McCain presidency would last much longer.

A group of Huntington-area business owners and GOP politicians gathered at the Tri-State Airport to make the case that McCain’s economic plan — especially his promise to reduce taxes — would be a boon for small businesses in West Virginia.

David Tyson, a former state Republican Party chairman, said McCain would cut corporate tax rates, honor the North American Free Trade Agreement and work to ensure health care for more Americans using free market mechanisms.

McCain’s tax promises were a strong selling point for Mike Emerson, president and CEO of Huntington Steel.

“I believe he will keep taxes low, which will allow us to continue to hire people in the area,” Emerson said.

Huntington Steel currently has about 140 employees in three states, Emerson said. He said he’s currently looking to hire more, but that may change under any administration led by Sen. Barack Obama, McCain’s presumed Democratic opponent.

When pressed, Emerson said he didn’t have a particular Obama proposal in mind that would hinder him from hiring more workers.

“Show me the taxes first, and I’ll tell you what the effect will be,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the Obama campaign in a conference call with reporters, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack faulted McCain for embracing Bush’s tax cut policies. Democrats have cited federal figures to argue that in 2007, one third of the total benefits of the cuts went to the top 1 percent of households.

“Continuing the Bush tax cuts and increasing the deficit is essentially a drag on business development and creation,” Vilsack told reporters. “Number two, If you want to drive down energy costs for small business, then you’ve got to figure out a way to move away from oil, because oil’s not going to become less expensive over time.”

McCain’s West Virginia visit was fleeting. His blue, white and gold campaign plane touched down shortly before 1:30 p.m., and then McCain greeted five supporters on the tarmac before boarding a bus. He was headed to a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio where he planned to discuss the economy.

The only other McCain supporters in evidence were Huntington mother-and-son pair Margaret and Caleb Hurt, who stood outside the airport where 13-year-old Caleb held a sign saying “If I could, I would vote for McCain.”

Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, was one of the supporters who briefly met with McCain before he left for Ohio.

Miller said McCain’s message of lower taxes to spur job growth has been recognized in West Virginia even by Democrats, citing Gov. Joe Manchin’s support for reducing the business franchise tax and the food tax.

“That’s the key for West Virginia: job growth,” Miller said.

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