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Obama spotlights economic prowess in Florida, Virginia

VIRGINIA BEACH | Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama cast the choice on Election Day as between his own steady leadership and promise to restore the middle class or someone who "sat shotgun" in a car with President Bush as the Republican drove the economy into "a ditch."

Making his second appearance in as many days in this critical battleground state, Mr. Obama said with five days left all his Republican rival Sen. John McCain has to offer is "stale," "worn-out" economic philosophy.

"It's time you got a new driver and that's why I'm running for [president], to go forward and not to go backward," he said.

The crowd of 10,000 responded by chanting, "Obama, Obama," echoing the cheers he received earlier Thursday in Sarasota, Fla., another swing state where he will return to campaign before Tuesday's vote.

Mr. Obama said Mr. McCain's campaign has been entirely negative, despite releasing his own attack ad that day.

"When was the last time you saw an ad from John McCain that said what he will do? All he's doing is talking about me," the Illinois senator said.

The new Obama ad depicted Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain in the rearview mirror as a man drives his car on a highway that features road signs outlining the campaign's talking points on Mr. McCain's plan to offer tax breaks for corporations.

"Look behind you. We can't afford more of the same," a narrator says.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds called the ad a "negative attack" and said it used "doctored photographs." He also charged that, "Barack Obama would drive this sputtering economy off a cliff."

Team Obama also released a positive spot highlighting endorsements from former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and billionaire Warren Buffett and presenting Mr. Obama as "a leader who'll bring us together."

In Florida to 13,000 gathered in a baseball stadium, Mr. Obama said there is a central question in the election: "What will our next president do differently?"

It was his third Florida event in 24 hours, and he'll return to the state before voting officially begins Tuesday. The previous night, Mr. Obama met up with former President Bill Clinton for the first time on the campaign trail and drew 35,000 in Kissimmee.

Sen. Bill Nelson traveled with Mr. Obama, and told reporters on the plane he thinks a Florida victory is within reach. He said the enthusiasm he saw at the rally the night before gives him confidence in the accuracy of polls showing Mr. Obama with a lead: "It feels awfully good."

He said the unprecedented high turnout in early voting is stunning. He also drew a contrast between this year and Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry's race in 2004, when he spent almost all of his time in South Florida.

"Obama and Biden are all over the state," he said.

The night before, Mr. Clinton gave a nearly identical argument he's been making on the trail for Mr. Obama for weeks, but also defended the nominee's economic plans against Republican "socialism" attacks.

"America works from the ground up not from the top down," the former president said. "They talk about redistributing the wealth; they presided over the greatest redistribution of wealth upward since the 1920s and we all know how that ended."

Mr. Obama, in turn, offered effusive praise for the man who once suggested nominating him was a "roll of the dice."

"In case all of you forgot, this is what it's like to have a great president," he told the crowd, adding that he wished the "last eight years" would have looked more "like the Clinton years when he was in the White House."

In Virginia for the evening rally Thursday, Sen. Jim Webb mocked the McCain camp's claim that Tuesday could be an upset.

"The only way that's going to happen" is if people don't turn out. He urged voters here to stand up and be counted, noting that he waited 2 1/2 hours to vote early over the weekend.

Nielsen reported that 33.6 million viewers had watched the previous night's Obama infomercial, which cost the campaign upwards of $3 million. The full 30-minute special has received more than 930,000 hits on YouTube, where clicks only register with the site if it's watched all the way through.

On the eve of Tuesday's presidential election, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama have agreed to one-on-one interviews with ESPN's Chris Berman via satellite from the campaign trail during halftime of Monday night's Redskins-Steelers game.

David Elfin contributed to this report.

About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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