Just enough time for a few more digs
Economy drives rhetoric in hectic race to the end
With the election in sight and the economy reeling, Barack Obama and John McCain fought yesterday over causes, cures, and the final votes that will make one of them president.
Racing from Florida to Virginia and Missouri, all traditionally Republican territory, Obama tied McCain to President Bush and said Americans are paying a steep price for the partnership.
McCain linked his rival to big oil companies and record profits as he rolled by bus through Ohio, which has voted with the winner in every presidential election for two decades.
Five days before the election, both campaigns invested heavily in turning out early voters.
Officials in North Carolina said roughly 30 percent of all registered voters had already cast ballots - about 1.7 million in all - and the Board of Elections ordered the state's 100 counties to keep longer voting hours.
Like the opinion polls, the early ballot count favored Obama. Officials in Iowa, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada as well as North Carolina said more Democrats than Republicans had cast ballots, in some cases by large margins.
In Sarasota, Fla., his first stop of the day, Obama tried to take advantage of the day's dismal business news, a government report that consumers cut back spending so sharply that the economy had shrunk at an annual rate of 0.3 percent in the third quarter. It was the economy's worst showing since the fall of 2001, when a recession in progress was compounded by the impact of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
"Folks have to watch every penny, tighten their belts," said Obama, contending that the downturn was the result of eight years of Republican economic policies.
"If you want to know where John McCain will drive this economy, just look in the rearview mirror. Because when it comes to our economic policies, John McCain has been right next to George Bush. He's been sitting there in the passenger seat, ready to take over, every step of the way," he added.
In an interview that aired last evening on NBC's "Nightly News with Brian Williams," Obama said the economic crisis will make the next president's job "a lot tougher." "We know that the next president is likely to inherit a significant recession. We don't know yet how long and how deep it is and what actions we take - over the next six to nine months could help determine how deep and how long," he added.
McCain's first stop of the day was in chilly Defiance, Ohio, where he did not dwell on the economic report, though his campaign issued a statement that Obama's proposals would deepen the downturn. Instead, he pointed to
"Senator Obama voted for billions in corporate giveaways to the oil companies," said McCain in an apparent reference to a 2005 energy bill that Bush pushed through Congress. "I voted against it," the Arizona Republican said.
The legislation included nearly $3 billion in tax breaks for the oil and natural gas industry including some - but not all - that would benefit the largest oil producers such as Exxon Mobil Corp.
It also had $11.4 billion in tax incentives for alternative energy and efficiency programs, cited by Obama as his reason for supporting the legislation.