Democrat Barack Obama, at his first campaign rally after Wednesday night's debate, told New Hampshire voters this afternoon that the face-off showed Republican rival John McCain's true colors: more attacks and more of the same as President Bush.
"Don't boo now, just vote," he urged at a rally at Mack's Apples in Londonderry.
"I think you saw a bit of the McCain attack strategy in action," said Obama. "But here’s what Senator McCain doesn’t seem to understand. With the economy in turmoil and the American Dream at risk, the American people don’t want to hear politicians attack each other – you want to hear about how we’re going to attack the challenges facing the middle class each and every day. You want to hear about the issues that matter in your lives. You want to hear about how we’re going to bring about the change that we desperately need for this country.
"Let’s debate our genuine differences on the issues that matter," Obama continued. "Last night, Senator McCain said that George Bush won’t be on the ballot this November....I'm not running against George Bush, I'm running against all those policies you support Senator McCain. In three debates and over twenty months, John McCain hasn’t explained a single thing that he would do differently from George Bush when it comes to the most important economic issues we face today. Not one."
"In the closing weeks, John McCain thinks he can make this campaign all about me -- but the truth is, this campaign is about you. Your jobs. Your health care. Your retirement. Your children’s future. That’s what this election is about. That’s what I’m fighting for. Because I can take three more weeks of these attacks from John McCain, but the American people can’t take four more years of the same failed policies and the same divisive politics that he's peddling."
UPDATE: McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds responded, “Voters in New Hampshire know John McCain, and they know he had the courage and judgment to oppose President Bush’s big-oil energy policy, wasteful spending bills and mismanagement of the war in Iraq – ironically, Barack Obama cannot say the same.”
But Obama urged supporters not to get ahead of themselves, reminding them that he lost the New Hampshire primary in January after many thought he would win and effectively clinch the Democratic nomination.
"We are 19 days away from changing this country, 19 days. But for those who are getting a little cocky, I’ve got two words for you: New Hampshire. I learned right here that you can’t let up or pay too much attention to the polls. We’ve got to keep making our case for change; we’ve got to keep fighting for every vote; we’ve got to keep running through that finish line. This election is too important to take anything for granted. The future that you and I seek for our children is too important to let up now. The time for change has come."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.