Battling Through Battleground States

Barack Obama campaigns in Indiana, a state that has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.
Barack Obama campaigns in Indiana, a state that has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. (By Darron Cummings -- Associated Press)
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By Robert Barnes and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 9, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 8 -- Barack Obama delivered a reassuring economic message and a combative John McCain blistered his opponent as ill-prepared and opportunistic as the two entered the final four weeks of the marathon presidential campaign with swings through the battleground states of the Midwest.

Obama followed Tuesday night's debate in Nashville with a rollicking rally in this normally reliably Republican state, delivering an optimistic view that the economic crisis is simply the latest challenge for a nation that has overcome worse.

"Listen here, Indiana: I'm here today to tell you that there are better days ahead," the Democrat told thousands who packed the grandstand at the wet and muddy Indiana State Fair. "I know these times are tough, and I know that many of you are anxious about the future. But this isn't a time for fear or for panic. This is a time for resolve and steady leadership."

McCain campaigned Wednesday in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and punctuated the day by telling an interviewer that his rival is not prepared to be president.

"I'll let the American people make a judgment in just 28 days," McCain told Fox News's Sean Hannity. "But I think he lacks the experience and the knowledge, and, most importantly, the judgment that he has displayed."

And that was among the milder attacks on Obama from the McCain campaign, which include a personal and stinging rebuke from McCain's wife, Cindy.

On the day after their second of three debates, both candidates quickly headed for the Midwest, where McCain desperately needs to replicate President Bush's electoral success in Ohio. Obama sought to press his case in Indiana, which has not supported a Democratic presidential hopeful since 1964, but where polls show him to be competitive.

The country's financial crisis, and the public's current belief that Obama is better equipped to handle it, have transformed the polls in recent weeks.

Obama went after McCain for his tax policies and for not saying during the debate that health care is a "right" of all Americans. But Obama's broader message was a reprisal of the inspirational themes that were once a staple of his campaign.

"What this crisis has taught us is that at the end of the day, there is no real separation between Main Street and Wall Street," he said. "There is only the road we're traveling on as Americans -- and we will rise or fall on that journey as one nation and one people."

He added: "Look at this crowd here today: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor. We cannot fail, not now."

Obama told the crowd to prepare for a steady barrage of attacks from McCain, who he said cannot compete with his own message on the economy.

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