Sen. John McCain, who has been trying to distance himself from President Bush, acknowledged Sunday they “share a common philosophy” - a remark immediately pounced on by Sen. Barack Obama as underscoring what a McCain administration would be like.
“That’s right, Colorado. I guess that was John McCain finally giving us a little straight talk and owning up to the fact that he and George Bush actually have a whole lot in common,” Mr. Obama told more than 100,000 people at a Sunday rally in Denver’s downtown Civic Center Park.
Mr. Obama, who has made tying the unpopular president to Mr. McCain the centerpiece of his campaign, said voters know the “Bush-McCain philosophy” serves up tax breaks to the richest Americans and big corporations that ship jobs overseas and squanders $10 billion a month on the war in Iraq while middle-class families in the United States suffer economic hardship.
In an appearance Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Mr. McCain acknowledged that while he and Mr. Bush both subscribe to basic Republican Party tenets, he has repeatedly disagreed with Mr. Bush and other Republicans. He listed campaign finance, global warming, ballooning spending and immigration as issues on which he’s fought some in his party.
“I could go down a long list of issues with you. Do I respect President Bush? Of course, I respect him. But I pointed out we were on the wrong track in a whole lot of ways,” he said.
But Mr. McCain’s claim of common ground with Mr. Bush, as well as the president’s casting an early ballot for the Arizona senator, reinforced Mr. Obama’s argument that his rival is allied with Bush administration policies that many voters blame for the country’s economic turmoil.
“For eight years, we’ve seen the Bush-McCain philosophy put our country on the wrong track, and we cannot have another four years that look just like the last eight,” the Democratic presidential nominee said. “It’s time for change in Washington, and that’s why I’m running for president of the United States.”
The Republican National Committee responded that Mr. Obama shares a common philosophy with the leaders of the Democrat-led Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the Financial Services Committee chairman, who recently advocated raising taxes and cutting defense spending by 25 percent.
“Unlike McCain, Obama has never broken with his party´s leadership,” RNC spokesman Alex Conant said. “If elected president, it´s clear Obama would be little more than a rubber-stamp for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi´s tax-and-spend agenda.”
Trailing in Iowa and many other key battleground states, Mr. McCain said he is taking his inspiration from the movie “Knute Rockne: All American,” which featured Ronald Reagan.
“I feel like Knute Rockne at halftime when he said, ‘You go out there and get one for the Gipper,’ and, look, those polls have consistently shown me much further behind than we actually are. It all depends on the voter-turnout model,” he said.
On the campaign trail in Iowa and Ohio, Mr. McCain stuck to his message of the past week but his close friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, questioned Mr. Obama’s fitness to lead the military.
Mr. Graham said Mr. Obama forfeited the respect of the military by not voting on a resolution condemning MoveOn.org’s “General Betray Us” ad denouncing Gen. David H. Petraeus, which ran in the New York Times on the eve of the general’s testimony on the Iraq war.
“Barack Obama was in the Democratic cloakroom. It would have taken him five seconds to come out and vote,” Mr. Graham said at a rally in Cedar Falls, Iowa, attended by about 2,000 people. “He does not deserve to be commander in chief.”
He also said Mr. McCain took taxpayer financing for the general election “because it’s good for his country not to have it overrun by money,” and he questioned Mr. Obama’s decision to forgo public financing as a scandal in waiting. “$600 million has been raised, and God knows who from,” he said.
Mr. Obama heads Monday to Canton, Ohio, where he is scheduled to deliver a speech billed as a “closing argument” for his presidential bid.
Mr. Obama will tell voters that critical swing state after 21 months on the campaign trail and three debates, Mr. McCain still has not been able to tell the American people “a single major thing he´d do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy,” the Obama campaign said.
According to the Obama campaign, he will tell voters that in a week “they can choose hope over fear, unity over division and the promise of change over the power of the status quo.”
Stephen Dinan traveled with the McCain campaign in Iowa and Ohio. S.A. Miller traveled with the Obama campaign in Colorado.