Obama, in Pa., Rips McCain on Economy
By Perry Bacon Jr.
ABINGTON, Pa. -- Barack Obama highlighted a new report showing the economy shed more than 159,000 jobs last month, linking the bad economic news to Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's policies and ideology.
"Senator Palin said to Joe Biden, or Governor Palin said to Joe Biden, that our plan to get our economy out of the ditch was somehow a job-killing plan, that's what she said," Obama told a crowd of thousands on the football field at a high school in this Philadelphia suburb. "I wonder if she turned on the news this morning. ... When Senator McCain and his running mate talk about job killing, that's something they know a thing or two about, because the policies they've supported and are supporting are killing jobs in America every single day."
Obama praised his running mate for his performance in last night's debate, asking, "Didn't he do a great job?" and calling him a "Scranton boy, done good." Biden was born in Scranton, Pa., before moving to Delaware when he was 10.
And Obama again called on the House to approve a bill to aid ailing firms on Wall Street, imploring Democrats and Republicans who voted against the bill: "Don't make the same mistake twice." (Enough of them complied that the bill passed the House this afternoon.)
But the Democratic nominee didn't spend much time talking about the debate or the Wall Street rescue package, instead attacking McCain's ideas on education, the economy and health care and laying out his own proposals on those issues.
"He's now going around saying, 'I'm going to crack down on Wall Street.' ... But the truth is, he's been saying, 'I'm all for deregulation,' for 26 years," Obama said of McCain.
He added, "He hasn't been getting tough on CEOs. He hasn't been getting tough on Wall Street. ... Suddenly a crisis comes and the polls change and suddenly he's out there talking like Jesse Jackson."
With Palin and McCain attacking Obama for his proposals to raise taxes on people who make more than $250,000, the Democratic nominee continued to defend himself. He called for a return to the economic policies of the last Democratic president, saying "We need to do what a guy named Bill Clinton did in the 1990s, put people first again." Then he compared his plans to those of a person less popular with Democrats.
"Under my plan, tax rates will actually be less than they were under Ronald Reagan," Obama said.
Taxes on many people who make more than $250,000 would be less under Obama than Reagan, but McCain argues those tax increases would still be detrimental to the economy.
With a crowd of more than 6,000 here, it was the sixth straight day Obama spoke at a large rally, many of which have been outdoors.
At times during both the Democratic primary and the general election, Obama has intentionally held smaller campaign events to focus on complicated issues, like preventing countries from obtaining or producing nuclear weapons. Many Democrats have long criticized his campaign for not sufficiently emphasizing his policy proposals.
But aides said that with voting registration deadlines coming up in states like Michigan, where Obama told an audience yesterday they had to register to vote by Monday, the campaign wanted the candidate to speak to as large a number of people as possible. His campaign is also aggressively pushing voters to cast their ballots early in some key states.
While not using the word "hope" as much, Obama is continuing to pitch an idealistic message, trying to cast the financial crisis as an opportunity for the kind of coming together of Democrats and Republicans he has spoken of for months.
"This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven't seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test," Obama said in Grand Rapids yesterday. "Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and lost its nerve and lost its purpose? When we allowed our own petty differences and broken politics to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession? Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame, when we battled back from adversity?"
The Democratic nominee has looked confident and relaxed in recent days, as polls have shown him leading in several key states amid the financial crisis. On his campaign plane Wednesday night, he handed out chocolate cookies to reporters that an aide's wife had baked for him, then chatted about his plans for this 16th wedding anniversary, which is today.
"I've got this whole romantic dinner planned," he told an audience of thousands in Grand Rapids yesterday. "I think it should go pretty well. That's my hope, anyways. I've got a gift all picked out."
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press yesterday, Obama, defending his choice of Biden for vice president, emphasized the how the Delaware senator could help him in office.
"What keeps me up at night is not losing this election. What keeps me up at night is winning the election," Obama said. "The next president is going to have two wars; the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; an economy that -- even before the financial crisis -- was badly weakened; a continuation of terrorist threats; a resurgent Russia, North Korea and Iran looking to obtain nuclear weapons; an education system that has fallen behind, and, in some places, like Detroit, is at some level dysfunctional; a health-care system that is exploding in costs but not in effectiveness and a set of entitlements that could bankrupt the federal government fairly rapidly. So I want somebody who I actually think is going to help me figure all of this stuff out."
When he was asked his about his lack of experience compared with McCain, Obama quipped, "I've been running against all this experience for 21 months, and I haven't been voted off the island."
But Obama and his allies are still aware that a campaign of many twists and turns could shift quickly toward McCain again. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who attended the event here, said Obama still needed to improve his standing among Keystone State voters who are over 65 years old. McCain is expected to campaign heavily here, as Pennsylvania may be the largest state that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) won in 2004 that the GOP nominee could carry, following his decision yesterday to pull resources from Michigan.
"We have to assume, as the attention shifts away from this economic stabilization package, that his numbers might go down," Casey said of Obama's campaign.
Posted at 2:57 PM ET on Oct 3, 2008
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