Obama Avoids Partisan Rhetoric, Focuses on Unity

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and running mate Joe Biden campaign in crucial swing states. With just over a week before the election, Florida, Virginia and Colorado are still up for grabs.
By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 27, 2008

DENVER, Oct. 26 -- On Barack Obama's march through the red states, there is no inclination to examine the philosophical differences between the political parties.

There's no point, he says. "We're all in this together," the Illinois Democrat assures the crowds who flock to his events, including one Sunday in the Colorado capital that drew between 75,000 and 100,000 supporters. "We don't have the luxury of relying on the same political games and the same political tactics that are used every election to divide us . . . by who we are or what policies we support."

Obama on Monday will begin what his campaign aides call the "closing argument" in his run for the White House: a sharpened distinction between what government would look like under him as opposed to under Republican nominee John McCain.

But as McCain and the Republicans step up their warning of unbridled power if the Democrats win control of the White House and Congress for the first time since 1994, Obama of late has largely avoided partisan rhetoric. Instead, he has focused on making a case for the themes he has emphasized in his nearly two-year campaign for the presidency and "the promise of change over the power of the status quo."

"Policies we support" might seem an important distinction as voters face this historic election, but it appears Obama would prefer the examination not extend beyond him and his Republican rival.

Obama is unsparing on McCain and President Bush -- "We will not let George Bush pass the torch" to McCain, he says -- and aides say his rhetoric may get sharper in the final week of the campaign.

Yet, in his recent speeches in early-voting states that went for President Bush four years ago, Obama never mentions a future in which Democrats run Washington. Instead, he seeks to reassure voters that what comes after Nov. 4, if he is successful, will not be a revolution but more of a reconciliation.

"Together, we cannot fail," he says. "Not now. Not when we have a crisis to solve and an economy to save."

Obama, in his short tenure in the Senate, has rarely crossed Democratic orthodoxy, and McCain says his opponent cannot point to a significant issue on which he disagrees with the Democratic congressional leadership.

But even on the issue that propelled his success in the Democratic primaries, his opposition to the war in Iraq, Obama's message these days is one of soothing, nonpartisan conciliation.

"There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it," he says at almost every stop. "There are patriots who believe in Democratic policies and patriots who believe in Republican policies."

Bush and McCain sometimes seem excepted from that good-natured absolution.

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