- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2008

RICHMOND | Sen. Barack Obama beat back criticism Wednesday that his tax plan is socialism and bad for aspiring small-business owners such “Joe the Plumber” by accusing Sen. John McCain of lavishing tax cuts on the rich.

“He’s not fighting for Joe the Plumber. He’s fighting for Joe the hedge-fund manager,” the Democratic presidential nominee said at a rally here, the first of two stops in Republican-leaning Virginia, where he leads in the polls. “He likes to talk about Joe the Plumber, but he’s in cahoots with Joe the CEO. Don’t be fooled. Don’t let them hoodwink you.”

He made the same case later at a rally in Leesburg, another pocket of support for Mr. Obama in a state that has not voted Democratic in a presidential race since 1964. He warned voters not to be duped by what he called the Republican’s “misleading charges and divisive attacks” in the final days of the campaign.

Mr. McCain, 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.”

“He wants government to take Joe’s money and give it to somebody else. His hard-earned dollars,” Mr. McCain said at a recent rally in Pennsylvania. “America didn’t become the greatest nation on earth by spreading the wealth. We became the greatest nation on earth by creating new wealth.”

Mr. Obama said he would roll back President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, those making more than $250,000 a year, but he would give tax cuts to the middle-class, which he said includes the majority of small-business owners.

He asked for a show of hands at the rally in the Richmond Coliseum from those making less than $250,000. Nearly all of the 13,000 people raised their hands, many laughing.

“I’m just checking,” Mr. Obama joked.

“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 try something new. It’s time to grow this economy from the bottom up. It’s time to invest in the middle-class again.”

Mr. Obama also addressed the “socialism” claim at a press conference after meeting with foreign-policy and military luminaries, noting that Mr. McCain criticized Mr. Bush’s tax-cut proposal during the 2000 campaign.

“Was John McCain a socialist back in 2000?” Mr. Obama asked at a news conference. “I think it’s an indication that they have run out of ideas.”

The campaign swing through Virginia served to energize supporters and drive up the vote totals in the Obama strongholds of Richmond, which is more than 57 percent black, and Leesburg, an affluent hamlet in Northern Virginia that is increasingly voting Democratic.

The stops in Richmond and Leesburg brought the total number of Mr. Obama’s events in Virginia to 14 since he clinched the nomination in June.

Polls show Mr. Obama leading in Virginia by a six- to eight-point margin. If he can hold the lead through Election Day, capturing the Old Dominion and its prize of 13 electoral votes, it could put him in the White House.

His leads in red states Iowa, New Mexico and Virginia and his hold on all states won four years ago by Democratic Sen. John Kerry would be enough to win the election.

On the stump, he kept with the strategy of railing against the country’s economic crisis and tying Mr. McCain to the unpopular Mr. Bush.

“Well, Virginia, here’s what my opponent doesn’t seem to understand. With the economy in turmoil and the American dream at risk, the American people don’t want to hear politicians attack each other,” Mr. Obama said in Richmond. “You want to hear about how we’re going to attack the challenges facing middle-class families each and every day.

“That’s what I’m talking about in this campaign. That’s what I’ll do as president. Because I can take two more weeks of John McCain’s attacks, but the American people can’t take four more years of the same failed policies and the same failed politics,” he said.

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