UPDATED: Liveblog: McCain rally in Denver

Abreast a giant American flag on the stage of the National Western Arena, a rally for GOP presidential nominee John McCain is getting underway. An estimated 4,000 people have packed the arena. Former Broncos quarterback and hometown hero John Elway will make opening statements before McCain takes the stage. There are a lot of Broncos jerseys in the crowd today.

NEW: Photo gallery of the rally and protester arrests. See inside.

9:38 a.m. – The music selection today is not bad. A mix of pop, country and rock and roll is entertaining the crowd as they wait for the show to begin. Republican senatorial candidate Bob Schaffer finished speaking moments ago. He got a big laugh when he told the crowd that if they hadn’t put yard signs up yet for McCain they should do so now. If they haven’t put a bumper sticker on their cars yet, they should. “If you haven’t put a bumper sticker on your neighbor’s car you should,” Schaffer jokingly said.

9:44 a.m. – This reporter just spotted a woman wearing a t-shirt that read “Lipstick is not a vice-presidential qualification.” I wonder if the person wearing it thought this the Obama rally in Denver on Sunday? Maybe she is planning some type of outburst when McCain comes on stage. When McCain came to the University of Denver in June a number of protesters were escorted out after rising out of their seats and screaming for the end to the war in Iraq.

A crowd of 3,000 - 4,000 people wait for John McCain to take the stage in Denver. (Photo/Jason Kosena)

A crowd of 3,000 - 4,000 people wait for John McCain to take the stage in Denver. (Photo/Jason Kosena)

9:58 a.m. – TCI senior fellow Naomi Zeveloff in downtown Denver reports that John McCain’s motorcade has left the swanky Brown Palace Hotel and is en route with a 20-police officer motorcade escort.

10:01 a.m. – It’s getting weird here at the National Western Arena. A fellow a few feet ahead of the press box is wearing a “F*ck Obama” T-shirt. Classy.

Nearby a lady is holding a hand-made sign “You wouldn’t be voting if your mother believed in abortion.”

10:08 a.m. – The McCain family are introduced to raucous applause and “Top Gun” blaring from the speakers. Roars from the crowd shouting “U-S-A” and general hooting and hollering.

10:14 a.m. – John Lynch, a former Denver Bronco, is speaking to the crowd and making the inevitable football analogies about the election. We’re in the fourth quarter….

Getting a warm reception from the crowd.

10:18 a.m. – John Elway now up and noting on McCain’s many years of service. Elway, who’s dabbled around the edges of politics, was encouraged to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Wayne Allard.

“We need someone in the White House who has always put country first,” says Elway.

10:19 a.m. – Boy, the speeches are running fast unlike the typically long-winded Dems. Cindy McCain calls out support for the veterans and active duty military personnel in the audience.

She segues into her husband’s military service, leadership and character. Huge cheers from the commemorative plastic white cowboy-hatted crowd for her introduction.

John McCain waits to speak at his rally in Denver. (Photo/Jason Kosena)

John McCain waits to speak at his rally in Denver. (Photo/Jason Kosena)

10:23 a.m. – John McCain steps to the podium. It’s really hard to hear in here because of the echo but McCain riffs on his water gaffe and thanks Colorado for sending the water downstream.

He emphasizes that he will not call for a renegotiation of the Colorado Water Compact to huge cheers.

10:24 a.m. – Protesters shouting something imperceptible are wrestled to the ground in front of the press. Their paper banner is torn from them and thrown to the ground. The crowd shouts “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” to drown them out.

10:27 a.m. – The protesters are still yelling. “Endorse community choice.” The Secret Service are now on the scene as well as McCain campaign staffers.

10:29 a.m. – McCain continues with his speech ignoring the protesters.

Three protesters are led out by Denver Police officers to boos and shouts of “U-S-A.” More protesters stay behind and are still yelling. The nearby crowd is surrounding them.

10:31 a.m. – Two protesters in wheelchairs carrying the paper banner are being led out of the arena by Denver Police officers. Looks like the crowd challengers are done for the day.

10:34 a.m. – Joe the Plumber is back. “America didn’t become the greatest nation on the earth by giving our money to the government to spread the wealth around,” McCain said. “We should be spreading opportunity.” McCain and his campaign have worked hard in recent days to use Joe the Plumber as a foundation of the last few weeks of his campaign.

10:37 a.m. – McCain is now talking about Obama’s running mate Joe Biden’s comments that if they should win Obama will be tested in the first six months of his presidency. Biden has been criticized for the comment by some who say McCain has already been tested.

“I have been tested and Sen. Obama hasn’t,” McCain said.

10:39 a.m. – McCain questioning Obama’s judgment. “He opposed the surge in Iraq…”

10:41 a.m. – Now McCain is touting his $300 billion plan to protect homeowners who are struggling to pay for their mortgages. “Bailing out banks? I would argue we need to focus on the underlying problem of foreclosures that are bringing down the value of other homes in the market,” McCain said.

10:43 a.m. – McCain is getting back to his normal stump speech that he has delivered for months. Veto any pork barrel spending. Stop sending $700 billion overseas for oil. “We have got to drill off-shore and drill off-shore now.

The crowd is screaming “Drill baby drill!”

10:46 a.m. – “I am an American and I choose to fight. Don’t give up hope, be strong,” McCain said to loud cheers. There have been rumors that the McCain campaign might pull out of Colorado to focus resources in other states. His campaign has denied the reports and his visit here today would indicate as much.

10:48 a.m. – McCain has stepped off the podium and is now shaking hands of the supporters who came out to see him.

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Jason Kosena

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