FREDERICKSBURG, Va. | Sen. Barack Obama couldn’t hold an umbrella over the 26,000 who waited hours in the mud to see him speak Saturday, so he joined them in getting soaked.
The Democratic presidential nominee and running mate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. held a full rally here despite the downpour Saturday night, telling voters in swing-state Virginia that Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain doesn’t get their struggles.
Mr. Obama — sticking to his new stump speech that noted Mr. McCain did not use the phrase “middle class” once during the previous evening’s first presidential debate — at first offered to take care of the dry-cleaning bills for the drenched voters.
Then he joked he needed the money for the campaign and asked them to consider it a contribution, prompting laughter. He worked campy rain metaphors into his speech several times, promising change may not be easy and it may seem “the sky is dark and rains will never pass,” but “as long as we’re in it together, there’s nothing we can’t do.”
Mr. Biden put on a baseball cap while Mr. Obama took his jacket off, leaving his white shirt soaked through by the end of the rally.
Earlier in Greensboro, N.C., Mr. Obama charged that 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.”
“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 90 minutes of debate, John McCain had a lot to say about me, but he had nothing to say about you. 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 after 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 and charging that Mr. Obama is not ready to lead on his own.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said he found that line of attack “puzzling.”
“Only someone who’s 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.
Mr. Biden, who will get his turn on a debate stage Thursday, lauded Mr. Obama’s performance in his first one-on-one encounter 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. Foreign policy and national security were “supposed to be John McCain’s turf, and Barack Obama owned it last night.”