Pat McCrory says it's only the media and political pundits who say being mayor of Charlotte is a negative in a statewide election. He isn't buying it. "I've almost gotten no negative feedback by being mayor of Charlotte. Now that people are more exposed to charlotte during the past decade, they've seen what we've accomplished and seen what I can do for the rest of the state. In fact it's becoming a political advantage," he says. Today McCrory is campaigning at a barbeque on the Caldwell County fairgrounds. About 600 people have shown up. He works the crowd with the same down-to-earth charm and ease of a mayor mingling with business leaders announcing a big project in the Queen City. McCrory shakes hands with a long line of supporter saying phrases like, "Hi, how're you doing! It's great seeing you. It's great being in Caldwell." Later, McCrory rallies the crowd with his campaign cornerstone: a call to change what he describes as the inaccessible, secretive and corrupt culture of Raleigh. "They've been more worried about power than they've been worried about you! Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to change the status quo and it's starting in November!" he says as the crowd cheers loudly. McCrory mentions politicians who have gone to prison for corruption, including former House speaker Jim Black of Matthews. It's similar to a speech he gave earlier that day in Hickory. But the stump speech has a new twist thanks to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. He says they have a lot in common. "The people of Alaska called on a mayor to clean up their state government. Right now, we have a mayor that's going to clean up NC's state government starting in January," says McCrory. He also touts his solution to a common complaint he says hears from employers throughout the state, who say it's hard to find skilled labor. McCrory says, "The first thing I'm going to do as governor is put a special emphasis on vocational training at our high schools. I'm going to say something that's politically incorrect since I've been campaigning: not every student who graduates from high school needs or wants a college degree." Sitting on a curb under a tree in the heart of Hickory's downtown, the mayor of North Carolina's biggest city looks at home on Main Street even though he's being stalked by a videographer from his opponent Bev Perdue's campaign. "Sorry," he says. "He records this too?" I ask. "Yeah, there's just no privacy in this world," he says. McCrory grew up near Greensboro. He proudly points to the times he's taken stances that many in his party didn't like. Ten years ago, McCrory pushed for a half-cent sales tax to expand mass transit in Charlotte. "You know, people said 'You're crazy. That's going to kill your political career!' I wasn't doing it for politics, I was doing it because it was the right thing to do. And it's working out much better than even I anticipated." The Charlotte Area Transit System has seen record levels of riders in recent years. With the addition of the light rail line last fall, this became the strongest all-time record year, so far. In addressing the small Hickory crowd, McCrory, a former Duke Energy executive, promises relief from high fuel prices. "I'm a strong proponent of conservation, nuclear power and clean coal. I'm a strong proponent of coal, wind, solar, and I'm also a proponent of drilling for natural gas off the shores of NC," he exclaims. McCrory has the vote of Hickory Democrat Wayne Robinette. Robinette credits the seven-term mayor with quote- getting things done: "The light rail system, the coliseum, things like that, that I know a lot of people don't agree with at first but I think everybody ultimately wants to have stuff like that. So I'll support him," says Robinette. In a state that's nearly 60-percent Democrat, McCrory will need such crossover votes to win. So far, it appears the message is sinking in. A poll for a Raleigh TV station released two weeks ago shows McCrory with an eight point lead over his opponent, Bev Perdue.