PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — U.S. Sen. John McCain urged fellow veterans at a Tuesday to do everything they can to ensure Mitt Romney is the nation's next president.
The 2008 presidential candidate, Vietnam War hero and longtime Arizona senator spoke to a friendly crowd of about 200 Republican activists and military veterans outside a Pensacola restaurant.
McCain earned his Navy flight wings at nearby Pensacola Naval Air Station and is a popular figure in the town known as "The Cradle of Naval Aviation."
He told supporters that the upcoming election is crucial for both national security and economic prosperity and that Floridians could determine the outcome.
"We have to get out the vote on Nov. 6 because this election going to come down to Florida. Whoever takes Florida will be the next president," he said.
Bob O'Donnell, a Navy veteran from Pensacola who served in Vietnam, sat with two of his Vietnam veteran friends at a table near the front of the crowd on the outdoor deck where McCain spoke.
O'Donnell, 65, said he and his friends have admired McCain for decades because of his service in Vietnam where he was taken prisoner and held captive.
"I'm here to shake his hand, that's something that is on my bucket list," O'Donnell said.
The trio said they will support Romney because of their concerns about personal freedoms, the economy and national security.
Josie Cossey, 54, wore a T-Shirt with the slogan: Romney/ Ryan — America's comeback team. Cossey said she supports Romney because she fears for the future of democracy in America.
"I pray that he wins because he loves America," Cossey said.
A small group of Obama supporters rallied outside the event.
William King, 65 of Pensacola and a Navy veteran who served as an aircraft Mechanic in Vietnam from 1969 to 1972, was among the Obama supporters.
King said he doesn't believe Romney has the best interest of veterans like himself at heart.
"We are part of his 47 percent," King said. "I am a veteran on Social Security and my mission is to support Obama, the real president of the United States," King said to cheers from his fellow Obama supporters.