Candidates Keep Up Attacks in Key States

John McCain, appearing in Harrisburg, Pa., with wife Cindy, kept up the vitriol against Barack Obama while not missing a chance to plug
John McCain, appearing in Harrisburg, Pa., with wife Cindy, kept up the vitriol against Barack Obama while not missing a chance to plug "Joe the Plumber." (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)
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By Michael Abramowitz and Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BENSALEM, Pa., Oct. 21 -- Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain took their competing economic messages to two of the country's biggest electoral prizes on Tuesday, with McCain accusing Obama across Pennsylvania of wanting to raise taxes and Obama attending a jobs "summit" with supporters in Florida, a battleground state struck hard by the economic downturn.

In Pennsylvania, McCain sought to link Obama's baseball allegiances to his tax policy.

"Now, I'm not dumb enough to get mixed up in a World Series between swing states, but I think I may have detected a little pattern with Senator Obama," McCain said. "It's pretty simple really. When he's campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies, then when he's campaigning in Tampa Bay, he shows love to the Rays. It's kind of like the way he campaigns on tax cuts, but then votes for tax increases after he's elected."

Campaigning in Florida, Obama countered that McCain has offered "little more than willful ignorance, wishful thinking, and outdated ideology" to cope with the nation's financial crisis.

Both campaigns were playing offense on Tuesday, hoping to steal away states that went for the other party's presidential candidate in 2004. But the day's events underscored the strategic landscape of the campaign in its final stages, with Obama much closer to moving Florida's 27 electoral votes into the Democratic column than McCain is in dislodging Pennsylvania's 21 votes.

McCain campaign officials in Pennsylvania insist the state is still up for grabs despite a double-digit lead by Obama in polls. A large cadre of conservative Democrats and independents are open to McCain's "independent streak," said his national political director, Mike DuHaime. DuHaime also said the campaign has an aggressive program in place to identify onetime supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats and bring them to the polls on Election Day.

DuHaime said the Pennsylvania race is "more competitive than some of the polls would have you believe." And he said the campaign has no plans to abandon the fight in New Hampshire and Colorado, two other states that have been moving away from the Republican in recent weeks.

In his final appearance of the day, in Moon Township near Pittsburgh, McCain criticized the "nasty" comments of certain politicians about western Pennsylvania, a reference to Democratic Rep. John P. Murtha's comments that the area he represents is "racist." Murtha has apologized for the comments, although he was also quoted as saying the area was once "really redneck."

"I could not disagree with these critics more," McCain said to loud cheers.

In his each of his appearances, McCain accused Obama of wanting to "spread the wealth," as the Democrat put it in a conversation last week with "Joe the Plumber," the tradesman who has become a staple of his speeches. McCain drew a roar from some 2,000 supporters in Harrisburg when he said Obama "believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans."

McCain also sharpened his latest line of attack on Obama: that the first-term senator would be a novice when it comes to international affairs. McCain revived the argument following comments from Obama's running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., that Obama might be tested early on in his administration, much as President John F. Kennedy was during the Cuban missile crisis.

"My friends, I have a little personal experience in that," McCain, a former Navy pilot, told the Harrisburg audience. "I was onboard the USS Enterprise. I sat in a cockpit on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise . . . off of Cuba. I had a target. My friends, do you know how close we came to a nuclear war?"

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