ASHEVILLE, N.C. – In the days before Tuesday’s second presidential debate, Barack Obama spent his time in states where Democratic presidential candidates rarely go, especially this close to an election.
This weekend, Obama visited Virginia and North Carolina. It has been nearly a month since he visited Ohio, the battleground of battlegrounds. The morning after the debate, he is scheduled to fly to Indiana.
The red state itinerary is the latest example of just how aggressively the Illinois senator has worked to widen the playing field, boosted by an economic crisis that he now claims his opponent has handled in an “erratic” fashion.
Emerging briefly Sunday from debate preparations, Obama responded to a recent attack made by Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who said that he “pals around with terrorists.” Obama suggested Palin and nominee John McCain are “gambling” that they can “distract you with smears,” rather than talk about substance.
“They’d rather tear our campaign down than lift this country up,” he said. “That’s what you do when you’re out of touch, out of ideas, and running out of time.”
Obama focused on a comment a top McCain adviser made in a weekend Washington Post story where he said Republicans are “looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama’s aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans.”
Obama mocked that statement during his appearance at a packed high school football stadium.
“Turn the page on the economy? We are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and John McCain wants us to ‘turn the page’ on talking about the economy?” Obama asked.
Palin, Alaska’s governor, had on Saturday first mentioned Obama’s ties to former 1960s radical William Ayers. The University of Illinois at Chicago professor is an Obama acquaintance who was a founder of a group that claimed responsibility for bombings at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol four decades ago.
“The comments are about an association that has been known but hasn’t been talked about,” Palin said Sunday, according to the Associated Press. “I think it’s fair to talk about where Barack Obama kicked off his political career: in the guy’s living room.”
Palin has also declared that she is ready for the final campaign stretch, saying, “The heels are on; the gloves are off.”
McCain spent Sunday preparing for Tuesday’s debate in Nashville. But the Arizona senator’s campaign maintained Ayers is a fair topic.
“The last four weeks of this election will be about whether the American people are willing to turn our economy and national security over to Barack Obama, a man with little record, questionable judgment, and ties to radical figures like unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement.
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