GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Barack Obama on Monday mocked John McCain's promise to bring change to Washington, saying the Republican presidential nominee has marched loyally with President Bush and was out of touch with the economic distress of struggling Americans.
"In 19 months he has not named one thing he would do differently from this administration on the central issue of this election," Obama said of McCain. "Not one thing. And we know that if we go down that path, that the next four years will look exactly like the last eight."
Seven weeks before the election, Obama sought to portray McCain as an unshakable ally of the unpopular Bush and Washington lobbyists — unsympathetic to the pocketbook issues that are the No. 1 concern of American voters. Obama delivered a frontal attack that showed none of the hesistancy that has worried some of his own supporters as McCain edged ahead in the polls.
"Can you afford to take a chance on someone who's voted against the minimum wage 19 times," Obama asked a crowd of thousands under a blazing sun at a rally in western Colorado at the start of a swing through contested Western states. "When it was $4, he was against it, when it was $5 he was against it, when it was $6 he was against it."
Obama closed the day in Pueblo with a rally at the Colorado State Fairgrounds before a wildly enthusiastic crowd estimated by the facility's general manager at 13,500.
The nation's economic anxieties were sharpened by a historic upheaval on Wall Street with the announcements that financial giant Lehman Brothers was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while titan Merrill Lynch was being bought by Bank of America for about $50 billion.
Charging that McCain was out of touch, Obama said, "He doesn't get what's happening between the mountains in Sedona where he lives and the corridors of power where he works. Why else would he say that we've made great progress economically under George Bush. Why else would he say that the economy isn't something he understands as well as he should.
"Why else would he say, today of all days, just a few hours ago — think about this, we just woke up to news of financial disaster — and this morning he said that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong. Sen. McCain, what economy are you talking about?"
McCain's campaign accused Obama of distorting the GOP candidate's comments.
"Only Barack Obama would take a statement about the strength, ingenuity and resilience of American workers and American industry and turn it into a political distortion and attack," said McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds. "Barack Obama's short career as a public servant has been defined by pessimism, defeatism, and weakness in the face of the great challenges of our time. His lack of faith in American workers may explain his willingness to raise taxes during a struggling economy, but it is no way to lead our country."
Obama said chaos in the financial markets was "the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. I certainly don't fault Sen. John McCain for these problems. I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to."
"It's the same philosophy we've had for the last eight years, one that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else," Obama said. "It's a philosophy that says even commonsense regulations are unnecessary, unwise. One that says we should just stick our heads in the sand and ignore economic problems until they spiral into crisis."
Obama's campaign released a new television commercial accusing McCain of running some of the "sleaziest ads" ever seen — especially an ad that declares Obama supports sex education for kindergartners. The ad is a distortion of Obama's position. He supported legislation that would teach age-appropriate sex education to kindergartners, including information on rejecting advances by sexual predators.
Obama also chided McCain for another new commercial that promises "change that we need."
"Sound familiar?" said Obama, who has made "change" the central theme of his campaign. "Let me tell you, instead of borrowing my lines he needs to borrow some of my ideas. Change isn't about slogans. It's about substance."
He also took a little poke at McCain's running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, raising the "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska that she initially supported and later opposed. Saying that McCain had put some lobbyists in key roles of his campaign, Obama said, "If you think those lobbyists are working day and night for John McCain just to put themselves out of business, well I've got a bridge to sell you up in Alaska."
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