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Candidates trade barbs in final days

Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed John McCain. Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed John McCain.
Globe Staff / November 2, 2008
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John McCain yesterday seized on a remark by Democratic rival Barack Obama that his game-changing Iowa caucus win in January had "vindicated" his faith in Americans to highlight his record of service.

Obama pounced on Vice President Dick Cheney's endorsement of McCain to try to tie his Republican foe even tighter to the Bush administration.

As the candidates hopped across battleground states in the final weekend of the marathon presidential race, their campaigns looked for any openings to sway undecided or wavering voters before Tuesday.

At a rally in Springfield, Va., McCain jumped on a line Obama has used often and repeated Friday in Iowa that "on the day of the Iowa caucus, my faith in the American people was vindicated, and what you started here in Iowa has swept the nation."

"We learn more and more about Senator Obama," McCain said, then repeated part of the line, prompting boos from some of the 3,000 supporters in the crowd. "My country has never had to prove anything to me, my friends. I have always had faith in it, and I have been humbled and honored to serve it," he added.

Obama's campaign, which routinely describes McCain's attacks as desperate and false, said it was "pathetic" that McCain "would take a statement Barack Obama has been making for a year about his faith in the American people and distort it to attack his patriotism."

Obama, meanwhile, updated his final-stretch stump speech to point out that Cheney said he was "delighted" to support McCain.

"I believe the right leader for this moment in history is Senator John McCain," the vice president said at a rare campaign appearance, an event in Wyoming in support of Republican candidates.

"John is a man who understands the danger facing America. He's a man who has looked into the face of evil and not flinched. He's a man who's comfortable with responsibility and has been since he joined the armed forces at the age of 17. He's earned our support and confidence, and the time is now to make him commander-in-chief."

At a rally in Pueblo, Colo., Obama sarcastically congratulated McCain. "That endorsement didn't come easy. Senator McCain had to vote 90 percent of the time with George Bush and agree with Dick Cheney to get it," Obama said.

"So George Bush may be in an undisclosed location, but Dick Cheney's out there on the campaign trail because he'd be delighted to pass the baton to John McCain," Obama added. "He knows that with John McCain you get a twofer: George Bush's economic policies and Dick Cheney's foreign policy - but that's a risk that the American people cannot afford to take."

With Bush's popularity at record lows, and Cheney even less popular, McCain has not asked them to appear with him at any rallies this campaign.

Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman, responded by referencing the reports that Obama and Cheney are distant cousins - something Obama has joked about.

"Barack Obama and Dick Cheney aren't just cousins. They've shared support for the Bush energy policy and the out-of-control spending that John McCain has fought to oppose," Bounds said in a statement.

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