Obama Goes to Nev. After Hawaii Detour

By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 26, 2008

ALBUQUERQUE, Oct. 25 -- Democratic Sen. Barack Obama on Saturday treated President Bush's early vote for Obama's Republican rival more like a political gift than a rejection, and he vowed, "We're not going to let George Bush pass the torch to John McCain."

Obama returned to the campaign trail after visiting his seriously ill grandmother in Hawaii with a massive rally at the University of New Mexico and a pair of events in the battleground state of Nevada. In both states, he revived his effort to tie McCain to the unpopular president and highlighted Bush's vote Friday in the process.

In front of an estimated 35,000 here, Obama ridiculed what he said must be the "strangest twist of this campaign" -- McCain's assertion that he is the candidate more likely to change Bush's economic policies. Obama called that "amazing."

"He took it to a whole new level: He said I was like George Bush," Obama said at a high school football stadium in Las Vegas. "Loco!"

Obama launched into a litany of ways McCain has supported Bush, as well as quoting McCain's now-familiar comment that he supported the president 90 percent of the time.

"That's right," Obama said. "He decided to really stick it to George Bush -- 10 percent of the time."

Obama held rallies in Las Vegas and at the University of Nevada in Reno, and later crossed McCain's path here in New Mexico. He'll head to Colorado on Sunday. All three states voted narrowly for Bush in 2004, and the visits continue Obama's trend of strenuously challenging McCain in states that went Republican four years ago.

The campaign is feeling so confident about states that went Democratic in 2004 that Obama hasn't visited one since Oct. 16.

Polls show Obama ahead in all three of the states on this weekend's travel itinerary, and his campaign aides point to several measures that show increased enthusiasm for their candidate. In Nevada, one of the early-voting states that Obama has made a priority, 53 percent of those who already have voted are Democrats, compared with 32 percent who are Republicans. The turnouts were roughly even four years ago. New Mexico is experiencing a similar trend.

Obama referenced Bush more than two dozen times in his Reno address and said it was fortunate for McCain that the president didn't hold a grudge about the Arizona senator's attempt to distance himself.

"Because yesterday, he cast his vote early for -- guess who? -- John McCain," Obama said Saturday. "And that's no surprise, because when it comes to the policies that matter for middle-class families, there's not an inch of daylight between George Bush and John McCain."

The McCain campaign replied with a line the Arizonan used in the final presidential debate, and it continued to steer away from the president's legacy.

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