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Palin, Obama swap salvos

COLORADO SPRINGS | Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin continued to jab at the Democratic campaign Saturday, finally drawing return fire from the top of the rival ticket, Sen. Barack Obama, who accused her of pork-barrel hypocrisy.

Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and Mrs. Palin, his vice-presidential running mate, rallied the base in this conservative stronghold, throwing red meat to a sold-out crowd of 12,000 that already had been riled up by a group of veterans who distributed American flags they said Democrats left in the trash after their convention in Denver.

"In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers, and then there are those like John McCain who use their careers to promote change," said Mrs. Palin, recycling a line from her much-praised convention speech.

In a somewhat surprising move, Mr. Obama himself swung back at Mrs. Palin yesterday, telling voters at a county fair in Terre Haute, Ind., that she had accepted federal funding for earmarks as governor.

"I know the governor of Alaska has been saying she's change, and that's great," Mr. Obama said. "She's a skillful politician. But, you know, when you've been taking all these earmarks when it's convenient, and then suddenly you're the champion anti-earmark person, that's not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something; you can't just make stuff up."

Until yesterday, Mr. Obama had refrained from criticizing Mrs. Palin directly, saying only that she, like Mr. McCain, would continue the Bush administration's policies. Typically, presidential candidates say little about their opponents´ running mates, leaving the attacks to their own vice-presidential picks.

Mr. McCain has vowed to wipe out earmarks or "pork-barrel" spending - targeted funding for specific projects that lawmakers put into spending bills. As governor, Mrs. Palin originally supported earmarks for a controversial Alaska project dubbed the so-called "bridge to nowhere." But she dropped her support after the state's likely share of the cost rose. She kept $27 million to build the approach road to the bridge for the state.

Before the candidates took the stage Saturday, the rally´s master of ceremonies, local radio talk-show host Dan Caplis, asked the veterans to pass out the flags to the crowd. Later, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee implied that the flags had been stolen.

"Stories circulating about flags from the Democratic National Convention are false," said spokesman Damon Jones. "More than 125,000 American-made flags were distributed at the convention. Any flags removed from the convention after the event were taken without authorization."

Mr. Jones added that it was "sad" to see the flags used "for a cheap political stunt."

McCain spokesman Ben Porritt disagreed.

"About 12,000 flags from the DNC were left in the garbage," he said. "They were recovered and delivered to the McCain campaign for use at our event today."

Colorado is seen as one of a handful of swing states critical to the success of both presidential campaigns. Democrats have made a strong play for the state, which supported President Bush in 2004, with frequent appearances and also by holding their convention in Denver.

Yesterday, Mrs. Palin once again demonstrated her star power by helping draw a sold-out crowd to the rally, held at an airplane hangar at the Jet Center. Many supporters wore Palin buttons or T-shirts and carried signs with messages like "Read My Lipstick" and "Pit Bulls for Palin."

"I think her being on the ticket has brought a lot of these people out here today," said Ken Franklin, a post office worker from Colorado Springs.

That included his wife, Sandy. "I love her. She´s a breath of fresh air," Mrs. Franklin said.

Mrs. Palin, who was interrupted several times by chants of "Sarah," asked the crowd to help keep Colorado in the Republican column.

"Colorado, it´s going to be a hard-fought battle here. It´s going to be a really tough battle, but we will win, and we´re counting on you," she told the enthusiastic gathering.

Republican leaders urged supporters to promote the ticket by going door to door, talking to their neighbors and getting involved in the campaign. Colorado Springs lies in El Paso County, the state´s most dependably conservative county.

"Sen. [Ken] Salazar and [Denver Mayor] John Hickenlooper said they would deliver Colorado to the Democrats," said Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera. "It´s not going to happen, because El Paso County is going to turn out in full force."

The McCain and Obama campaigns released a statement Saturday saying they would jointly mark the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon.

The anniversary is Thursday, Sept. 11. "On Thursday, we will put aside politics and come together to renew that unity, to honor the memory of each and every American who died, and to grieve with the families and friends who lost loved ones," the statement said.

Joseph Curl contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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