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The Trail

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

RALLYING IN RICHMOND

Palin Calls Obama 'Another Big Spender'

RICHMOND -- Sarah Palin continued to attack Barack Obama on Monday, speaking to a crowd of about 20,000 outside Richmond International Raceway, and she promised that she and John McCain would help revive the U.S. economy if elected.

Suggesting that the Democratic candidate would undermine a possible American victory in Iraq -- "Just once I would like to hear Barack Obama say he'd like America to win" -- the Republican vice presidential nominee said Obama would jeopardize the economy further by raising taxes and expanding the federal government.

"America, we cannot just afford another big spender in the White House," Palin told the enthusiastic audience.

While McCain unveiled a new campaign speech Monday, his running mate stuck largely to her usual script -- devoting nearly as much time to discussing the special needs of her son Trig, the need to expand drilling for oil and natural gas, and reforming Washington as to McCain's economic plan.

The crowd waited for hours for Palin to arrive and chanted "No-bama!" and "We want Fox!" in the run-up to her speech.

The crowd was so large that some supporters standing far back from the stage began chanting "Louder, louder!" midway through Palin's speech after she had paid homage to military veterans in the crowd.

Palin, who assumed they were protesters, said in response to the chants, "I hope those protesters have the courage and honor to give veterans thanks for their right to protest."

-- Juliet Eilperin

$12 AN HOUR

McCain Team Hiring Canvassers in Fla.

Republicans worried about John McCain's prospects have wondered how his campaign has been spending its money, given that he is being heavily outspent on the air in swing states and has invested far less in field offices and organizers than Barack Obama. At least some of the money is going to the campaign's efforts in Florida, where McCain is now offering to pay people to do door-to-door canvassing.

An e-mail went out over the weekend from the Republican Party in Hillsborough County, which encompasses the vote-rich Tampa area, inviting supporters to go door to door for the campaign for $12 an hour. "Work as many shifts per week as you want," it said. "No experience necessary, but a strong desire to make a difference and a strong work ethic are important. So is reliable transportation."

McCain's reliance on paid canvassers is another indication of the advantage Obama holds going into the final weeks of the campaign. In Florida alone, the Obama campaign has 56 field offices, more than 100 field organizers and the free labor of 150,000 volunteers, who have been doing all of the campaign's canvassing in the state.

The Obama campaign is so invested in its Florida effort that it has moved its two top national field generals, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, to the Sunshine State.

Brian Lothrop, who has been hired by the Republican Party to oversee the canvassing efforts in part of Hillsborough, said the party was seeking to hire about 30 canvassers for each of the county's four quadrants and that he'd already hired 15 to 20 after the e-mail went out to local Republican clubs and Young Republicans. He said it was not unusual for the party to hire canvassers in the final weeks of a campaign. The party has had volunteers doing "precinct walks" over the past few weeks to distribute campaign door hangers, he said, with nearly 20 turning out on Saturday to walk one precinct in his area.

But the campaign decided that it made more sense to pay canvassers for the task of making sure voters who want absentee ballots obtain them and send them in. That work entails four-hour shifts, instead of the two-hour shifts that volunteers commit to, and closely following state rules on absentee ballots, he said.

"The compensation helps to make sure they're going to be there for a full four-hour shift and able to handle the accountability measures we have, measuring the effectiveness of our effort," Lothrop said.

The situation in Florida is something of the reverse of what occurred in 2004, when Democrats nationally relied heavily on paid canvassers hired by America Coming Together and Republicans relied heavily on the volunteer network assembled under Karl Rove's guidance.

-- Alec MacGillis

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