Gasolina! Daddy Yankee Endorses McCain

By Michael D. Shear
PHOENIX -- The high school girls standing on the risers behind Sen. John McCain looked like any high school girls would during a talk by someone Paris Hilton might describe as "a white-haired dude." They clapped politely.

And then, when McCain introduced his special guest, they freaked out. They gasped. They put their hands over their mouths. They screamed.

Daddy Yankee, one of the country's top Latino music stars, strode out, wearing mirrored sunglasses. A Puerto Rican reggaeton recording artist, he appeared next to McCain to endorse the Republican nominee and perhaps give him a boost with Hispanic voters.

But for the girls, all that -- and McCain -- was beside the point. What they thought was going to be a boring, political event was suddenly way cool. Yankee turned and hugged a few of the girls, who put their shaking arms around him.

He then endorsed McCain, saying that "I believe in his ideals and his proposals to lead this nation" and that McCain was the best "fighter for the immigration issue."

McCain stood with Yankee in a downtown Phoenix high school that his wife, Cindy McCain, had attended as the Democratic Party opened the first day of its national convention. Daddy Yankee will be flying on the straight talk air today to California.

"I just want to say thank you Daddy Yankee," said McCain, who also referred to him as Ramon, since his given name is Ramon Ayala. McCain said Yankee has been married 15 years, had grown up poor in Puerto Rico and made "the right choice" in life.

Daddy Yankee is a hugely popular artist among Spanish speakers in the United States. His 2007 album, El Cartel: The Big Boss, was the most popular record in all Latin music categories, according to Billboard Magazine.

McCain aides have said they plan to target Hispanic voters during this election, and Yankee has the potential to help.

Yet Yankee is also an odd match for the straight-laced McCain. His hit song, "Gasolina," might appear at first to support McCain's call for more offshore oil drilling. But the song is not an ode to the kind of energy McCain usually talks about. It is about hot women, sex and cars, whose meaning is far less innocent in Puerto Rican slang.

"She likes gasoline (give me more gasoline!) ... How she adores gasoline! (give me more gasoline)" Yankee sings, according to one translation. "For women who don't turn off their engines...You and I we have something pending."

Later today, McCain heads to Los Angeles, where he will tape an appearance on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. Tomorrow, he plans a speech to the American Legion national convention before heading to San Diego for a fundraiser.

Attention will soon shift back to McCain's choice of a vice presidential running mate. From the reaction this morning, if 16-year-old Latino girls could vote, McCain might have given more thought to a McCain-Yankee ticket.