- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. | Sen. Barack Obama kept his campaign focused on the economy Tuesday, warning a crowd of airline mechanics threatened with layoffs that presidential rival Sen. John McCain would leave them in the lurch the same way he said President Bush did during the last eight years.

“Just remember, the last eight years, you’ve fallen behind,” he said. “John McCain is not planning to do anything different than George Bush did.”

Mr. Obama said he planned to lead a government that would offer a helping hand to struggling middle-class families, provide universal health care, make college education more affordable and create good-paying jobs that could not be shipped overseas.

The rhetoric, likely a preview of his acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday, both shifts attention from Republican charges that the Illinois senator is too inexperienced to lead the country and defines the election as a referendum on the economy, much like the 1992 race in which Bill Clinton captured the White House for Democrats.

Mr. Obama’s stump speech to workers and union activists gathered between two jumbo jets inside a cavernous hangar at the American Airlines overhaul base here also reached out to former supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who narrowly lost the Show Me State 49 percent to 48 percent in the Feb. 5 Democratic primary.

Mrs. Clinton took center stage at the Democratic National Convention in Denver later Tuesday, seeking to rally her supporters - many still bitter about their candidate’s defeat in a prolonged and bruising primary fight - to back Mr. Obama.

In Kansas City, Mr. Obama assured the crowd that he understood the plight of working-class families and would champion their cause in the White House.

“It’s not about me. It’s about you,” he said, striking a familiar populist chord.

He pointed to statistics that show since Mr. Bush took office in 2000, the average wage of middle-class families has fallen by $2,000 a year, hundreds of thousands of people have slipped below the poverty line and 7 million more Americans have lost medical insurance.

“People are anxious. People are scared about the future,” Mr. Obama said. “The truth is that this economy is not working for many Americans,”

Mr. Obama reminded the workers that Mr. McCain has said that the economy made progress in the last eight years. He said Mr. McCain, who recently told reporters that he could not remember how many houses he owns and previously defined wealthy as making $5 million a year, was “out of touch” with average Americans.

“If you don’t know how many houses you have, no wonder you think the economy has made great progress, no wonder he thinks the economy is sound,” Mr. Obama said.

“You need someone who every day gets it,” he said.

Mr. McCain and his wife, Cindy, own or have a stake in at least eight properties, according to reports.

Mr. Obama has been pummeled by Republican ads painting him as an inexperienced celebrity, as his poll lead evaporated and the race became tied. Mr. Obama has gone on the offensive in recent campaign stops as Democrats are using this week’s convention to fire back at Mr. McCain.

Mr. Obama is making a series of campaign stops in swing states in the run-up to his speech Thursday in Denver, when he will become the first black nominated for president by a major party. After the Kansas City event, he flew to Billings, Mont., where he spent the night in preparation for an event Wednesday.

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