- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 25, 2008

RENO, Nev. | Sen. Barack Obama returned to the campaign trail Saturday promising to pull the country out of an economic tailspin and accusing Republican Sen. John McCain of resorting to smear tactics and feigning differences with President Bush in what he described as a desperate bid to sway voters 10 days before the presidential election.

“Senator McCain has been throwing everything he’s got at us, hoping something will stick,” Mr. Obama said, adding that Mr. McCain in an interview with The Washington Times went so far to distance himself with Mr. Bush that he complained the administration let the economy “get completely out of hand.”

“That’s right, John McCain has been really angry about George Bush’s economic policies — except during the primaries, when he said we’ve made ‘great progress economically’ under George Bush,” Mr. Obama said. “Or just last month, when he said that the ‘fundamentals of our economy are strong.’ In fact, John McCain is so opposed to George Bush’s policies, that he voted with him 90 percent of the time for the past eight years.

“That’s right, he decided to really stick it to him — 10 percent of the time,” Mr. Obama told the rally of about 11,000 supporters at a ballpark at University of Nevada, Reno.

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Mr. Obama, who took Friday off from campaigning to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii, returned to a campaign swing through Western swing states that narrowly backed Mr. Bush in 2004 but are tipping toward the Democrat this year. He railed against the country’s financial woes, which he blamed on the Bush administration and vowed to fix with populist remedies such as middle-class tax relief and New Deal-style public works projects.

It is a message that has be working for him.

Polls show Mr. Obama with as much as a 5 point lead in Nevada and as much as a 13 point lead New Mexico, where he will attend a rally Saturday evening. He is also slightly ahead in a half-dozen other swing states that used to lead Republican, cementing his front-runner status at this late stage of the campaign.

Mr. Obama, who enjoys a solid hold on all the states Democrat John Kerry won in 2004, could win the election by capturing just a few of the red states that are in play.

Mr. McCain has tried to gain ground by further distancing himself from the wildly unpopular Mr. Bush as he criticizes Mr. Obama for his “socialist” tax plan that would raise taxes on the wealthy and on small business owners such as “Joe the Plumber.”

The Republican presidential nominee has hammered Mr. Obama for pursuing a socialist agenda since the Democrat told Joseph Wurzelbacher, an Ohio plumber worried about higher taxes if he buys a plumbing business, that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” Mr. McCain and vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin mention “Joe the Plumber” often on the stump and a new TV ad features a series of voters saying, “I’m Joe the Plumber.”

For the McCain campaign, Mr. Wurzelbacher has become an everyman symbol for small business owners who will bet hit by Mr. Obama’s soak-the-rich tax plan.

“There’s been a lot of talk about taxes in this campaign. And the truth is, my opponent and I are both proposing tax cuts,” he said. “The difference is, he wants to give a $700,000 tax cut to the average Fortune 500 CEO. I want to put a middle class tax cut in the pockets of 95 percent of workers and their families. My opponent doesn’t want you to know this, but under my plan, tax rates will actually be less than they were under Ronald Reagan.”

Mr. Obama said the tax cuts would benefit “98 percent of small business owners, and that includes plumbers.”

“For the last eight years, we have tried it John McCain’s way. We have tried it George Bush’s way,” he said. “We’ve given more and more to those with the most and hoped that prosperity would trickle down to everyone else. And guess what? It didn’t. So it’s time to try something new. It’s time to grow this economy by investing in the middle class again.”

As he has at each campaign stop in red states this week, he worked to energize his supporters and drive of vote totals in areas such as Reno where he has a strong lead.

A Politico/Insider Advantage poll this week showed Mr. Obama with a 10-point lead in Reno, but tied statewide with Mr. McCain at 47 percent

“We are going to have to struggle and fight for each of these 10 days,” he told the Reno rally. “We know change doesn’t come without a fight.”