- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2008

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama on Saturday charged that his Republican rival at the first debate the night before revealed himself as uncaring about average people.

“On issue after issue from taxes to health care to the war in Iraq you heard John McCain make the case for more of the same policies that got us into this mess,” Mr. Obama said at a rally under gray skies in front of the train station here.

“Just as important as what we heard from John McCain was what we didn’t hear from John McCain,” he said.

“The truth is, through ninety minutes of debate, John McCain had a lot to say about me, but he had nothing to say about you,” he said. “He didn’t even say the word ‘middle class.’ He didn’t say the word ‘working people.’”

The line of attack echoed a new campaign ad released following the debate titled “Zero,” as in the number of times Mr. McCain referred to the middle class Friday night.

The McCain campaign released its own ad highlighting all the times Mr. Obama said the Republican was “right” during the debate but charging that he’s not ready to lead on his own.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said he found that line of attack “puzzling.”

“Only someone whos been in Washington for 26 years would put that ad out,” Mr. Plouffe told reporters on a conference call, adding that his boss “is not afraid” to say when he agrees with his opponent.

“Voters in the battleground states who are undecided actually responded very well” to that line, he said.

Campaign spokesman Bill Burton also noted that focus groups and pundits had declared Mr. Obama the winner.

Unlike Mr. Obama’s pitch at the debate, the Illinois senator on Saturday was not attempting to reach undecided voters. The crowd of more than 20,000 were in his corner, loudly cheering for Mr. Obama and his running mate Sen. Joe Biden.

He was interrupted by chants several times, and a local marching band warmed up the ralliers.

Mr. Biden, who will get his turn on a debate stage Thursday, lauded Mr. Obama’s performance in his first battle with Mr. McCain.

“Last night America looked and it didn’t just see a winner, they saw the next commander in chief,” Mr. Biden said.

“This was supposed to be John McCain’s turf and Barack Obama owned it last night,” he added.

The Delaware senator led the crowd in a call and response to repeat the Obama line from the debate that Mr. McCain was “wrong” in his judgment on Iraq and Afghanistan.

During a riff of his standard “change is more than a slogan” line, Mr. Obama said he’d noticed his rival using the phrase “need to turn the page,” something he’s said for 20 months on the trail.

“Come on, John,” he said. “Pretty soon I’m going to have to start saying I’m a maverick. You’ve got to come up with your own stuff.”

Mr. Biden also said Mr. McCain’s “silence was deafening,” on the middle class at the debate.

“The phrase never parted his lips once. Not one single time,” Mr. Biden said, as the crowd of more than 20,000 roared.

Mr. Obama also kept up his attempt at linking Mr. McCain with President Bush.

“I don’t know how he stood up there trying to distance himself from what’s been taking place [economically],” Mr. Obama said. “It was only a few months ago that he bragged that he had voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time.”

He earned big applause for promising, “The dreams of the American people cannot be endangered any more.”

“We don’t need any more out-of-touch, on-your-own leadership in Washington,” he said. “We need a president who will change this economy so it finally works for your family.”

Mr. Obama alluded to tightening polls suggesting red North Carolina may be in play for the Democrats, asking voters to help the campaign.

The Democratic ticket will hold an evening rally in Fredericksburg, Virginia, another state they are hoping would turn blue Nov. 4.

Mr. Plouffe repeated that Mr. McCain had a home field advantage the night before since the debate was on the topic of foreign policy and national security.

He also insisted the next debate Oct. 9 in Tennessee offers Mr. McCain another “home court advantage” since it’s a town hall and the Republican has done more town halls than any presidential candidate “in history” and is the “undisputed champion” of the format.

“Maybe well concoct a reason to suspend our campaign,” Mr. Plouffe quipped.

He also lowered expectations for the upcoming Biden face off with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday, calling the Democratic contender a “terrific messenger” but saying Mrs. Palin is a “terrific debater.”

The campaign has been reviewing Palin debate tapes and she is “a very skilled performer, he said.

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