Obama Camp Making Plans for General Election

Clinton, However, Shows No Letup In Her Campaign

Barack Obama criticized Republican rival John McCain and President Bush for 'dishonest and divisive' attacks in hinting that the Democratic presidential candidate would appease terrorists. Video by AP
By Matthew Mosk and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 18, 2008

ROSEBURG, Ore., May 17 -- As the votes are being counted Tuesday night in Oregon and Kentucky, Sen. Barack Obama plans to hold a triumphant rally in Iowa, returning to the state that propelled him to the top of the Democratic field and sending a clear signal that he has shifted his focus to the general election.

Obama advisers said Iowa is one of several states, along with Missouri, Michigan and Florida, that they have targeted for wins in November and where they plan to campaign even before his primary battle against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ends. Obama made campaign stops in Missouri and Michigan last week and plans a three-day swing through Florida starting Wednesday.

"John McCain has gone unchallenged for far too long, and we need to start laying out the argument that Barack Obama is the better choice," said Jen Psaki, an Obama spokeswoman, referring to the presumptive Republican nominee.

Obama has attempted to draw a series of contrasts with McCain over the past 10 days, giving speeches in Missouri on their economic differences, in Michigan on manufacturing jobs, and in South Dakota on rural and farm issues. During an appearance at a packed high school auditorium here Saturday, Obama focused almost exclusively on McCain, telling crowds that a vote for the senator from Arizona would amount to a vote for four more years of President Bush's policies.

"If you agree we've had a great foreign policy over the last four or eight years, then you should vote for John McCain," Obama said. Turning his attention to health care, Obama said that McCain "wants to give you the failed Bush health-care policy for another four years."

McCain's campaign struck back with several e-mails to reporters highlighting what it said were inaccuracies in Obama's attacks. "Whether you're talking about tax increases for hardworking families or a dangerous level of weak judgment, Americans are going to reject a candidate that has no record of bipartisan success," said Tucker Bounds, a McCain campaign spokesman.

Obama has not completely forgotten about his battle against Clinton. He is spending the weekend campaigning in Oregon, where he is expected to win Tuesday, and he will spend Monday in Montana, which votes June 3.

But at one point in his speech here, Obama pointedly used past-tense to describe the primary battle with Clinton, saying it "was hard-fought."

"She was relentless and very effective," he added.

All three candidates took time out from their campaigning Saturday to send their prayers and wishes to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who suffered a seizure and was hospitalized in Boston. Kennedy was alert and talking with family by Saturday afternoon, sources told The Post.

Like Obama, Clinton sought to link McCain to Bush as she started a three-day campaign trip through Kentucky, where she is expected to win Tuesday.

"Senator McCain's economic policy boils down to this: Don't just continue driving our nation in the wrong direction; put your foot on the accelerator and gun it," Clinton said in Frankfort. "It's hard to imagine, but Senator McCain and President Bush are like two sides of the same coin, and it doesn't amount to a whole lot of change."

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