HARRISONBURG, Va. – Sen. Barack Obama seized upon comments by a top aide to Sen. John McCain about the Republican’s health care plan, saying that they amounted to an “October surprise” at a boisterous rally in this Shenandoah Valley town.
“This morning, we were offered a stunning bit of straight talk … from his top economic adviser, who actually said that the health insurance people currently get from their employer is, and I quote, ‘way better’ than the health care they’d be getting if John McCain were president,” Obama told 8,000 supporters crammed into the convocation center at James Madison University. About 12,000 more stood outside.
“This is the point I’ve been making since Senator McCain unveiled his plan,” Obama said. “It took until the last seven days of this election for his campaign to finally admit the truth. But better late than never.”
Obama was referring to a quote from McCain’s senior economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who told CNNMoney.com that young, healthy workers likely wouldn’t give up their company-sponsored plans for the $5,000 tax credit McCain would offer to offset the cost of purchasing private insurance.
“Why would they leave?” said Holtz-Eakin. “What they are getting from their employer is way better than what they could get with the credit.”
Obama called McCain’s plan, which would tax employees’ company benefits, “radical” and not affordable.
He defended his proposal to offer health care access to all, which McCain has said will result in a massive, ineffective bureaucracy ruining American health care. Obama said nothing would change for those who have insurance through their employers, aside from lower premiums.
Tuesday marked Obama’s ninth trip to Virginia since he clinched the Democratic Party nomination in June, and the candidate has put in play a commonwealth that has supported Democratic presidential nominees just twice in 60 years. The last time was in 1964.
Earlier Tuesday, McCain concentrated on conservative areas of Pennsylvania while Obama pressed his case in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
With a week to go before Election Day, Pennsylvania is living up to its nickname as the political keystone for both camps. It is the state where McCain, an Arizona Republican, is waging a vigorous campaign to capture what are usually Democratic electoral votes while the Obama camp has made a special trip back here to cement what polls show is a strong lead.
McCain, accompanied by vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, again tried to portray Obama as someone who would raise taxes, and McCain and Palin repeated their recent theme that the Democrat was too liberal and wanted to redistribute wealth.
“Senator Obama is running to be redistributionist in chief. I’m running to be commander in chief,” McCain said.
Obama again called for a tax increase for those earning more than $250,000 a year while saying he would cut taxes for those earning less and continued to link the GOP to the unpopular Bush administration.
The weather that halted Game 5 of the World Series in Philadelphia on Monday night and postponed play Tuesday night continued to bear down on the region, so supporters were buffeted with pouring rain, whipping winds and near-freezing conditions.
“A little bit of rain never hurt anybody,” Obama told the cheering crowd. “This is an unbelievable crowd for this kind of weather – thank you so much. I just want all of you to know, if we see this kind of dedication on Election Day there is no way we’re not going to bring change to America.”
The World Series played a role at McCain’s rally in Hershey, Pa., as well. Obama is scheduled to deliver a televised address, paid for by his campaign, today.
“No one will delay the World Series game with an infomercial when I am president,” McCain told the cheering crowd.
McCain told his backers that he was poised for an upset.