Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain on Saturday accused Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama of pursuing a socialist agenda and seeking to hide his intention to redistribute wealth as part of a massive government welfare program.
Mr. McCain repeatedly cashed in on the October surprise of Joe the Plumber on the campaign trail Saturday, and also used his radio address to make the taboo “socialism” charge against Mr. Obama based on his candid admission to the Ohio blue-collar worker that he wants to “spread the wealth around.”
“Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism. And a lot of Americans are thinking along those same lines. In the best case, ‘spreading the wealth around’ is a familiar idea from the American left. And that kind of class warfare sure doesn’t sound like a ‘new kind of politics,’ ” Mr. McCain said in the weekly address.
“At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives,” he said. “We should demand equal candor from Senator Obama. Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut; it’s just another government giveaway.”
Mr. Obama, addressing an estimated 100,000 supporters in the traditionally Republican “red” state of Missouri on Saturday, said Mr. McCain was describing the Democrat’s plans for middle-class tax relief as government “welfare.”
“The only ‘welfare’ in this campaign is John McCain’s plan to give another $200 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest corporations in America. … That’s who John McCain is fighting for,” Mr. Obama said in a rally under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
“But we can’t afford four more years like the last eight. George Bush and John McCain are out of ideas, they are out of touch, and if you stand with me, in 17 days they will be out of time,” Mr. Obama said.
In Prince William County, a bedroom community to the District that the Democrat is targeting as he seeks to win the bright-red state of Virginia, the Republican repeatedly referred to the Holland, Ohio, plumber, Joe Wurzelbacher, just as he did last week in his final debate and in other stops Saturday in Florida and North Carolina.
“He’s the only person to get a real answer out of Senator Obama about his plans for our country. Congratulations Joe. That is an impressive achievement,” Mr. McCain said to thunderous cheers from several thousand supporters packed into a courtyard on a chilly day.
“We learned more about Senator Obama’s plans from Joe’s question than we’ve learned in months of speeches by Senator Obama. We learned that Senator Obama’s economic goal is, as he told Joe, is to quote ‘spread the wealth around.’ This explains some big problems with my opponent’s claim that he will cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans. You might ask: How do you cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans, when more than 40 percent pay no income taxes right now? How do you reduce the number zero?”
Mr. McCain said redistributing the wealth is “the key to Barack Obama’s whole plan: Since you can’t reduce taxes on those who pay zero, the government will write them all checks called a tax credit. And the Treasury will have to cover those checks by taxing other people, including a lot of folks just like Joe. In other words, Barack Obama’s plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut; it’s just another government giveaway,” he said to deafening boos from the crowd.
Mr. Wurzelbacher has become the focal point of Mr. McCain’s campaign, the Republican mentioning him repeatedly on Saturday in two red states - Virginia and North Carolina - and rumors swirled that the plumber would appear with the nominee Sunday when Mr. McCain campaigns in Columbus, Ohio.
While Mr. Obama has expanded his playing field in the last month - he is making campaign stops in more than a half-dozen traditionally Republican states, including Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri and Ohio - Mr. McCain has spent the last couple weeks defending his home turf.
The last time Prince William County voted for a Democratic presidential candidate was 1964, which also was the last time the state as a whole did that. But Democrats in this swing “purple” county think this year will be different.