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Candidates get prickly over economy, change

Sun., Sept. 7, 2008, midnight

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Barack Obama on Saturday ridiculed John McCain’s renewed emphasis on his reputation as a government reformer, mocking the Republican presidential nominee in unusually sharp language while campaigning in this traditional GOP stronghold.

“This is coming from the party that’s been in charge for eight years. They’ve been running the show,” Obama told some 800 supporters at the Wabash Valley fairgrounds.

“I guess maybe what they’re saying is, ‘Watch out, George Bush. Except for economic policies, and tax policies, and energy policies, and health care policies, and education policies, and Karl Rove-style politics, except for all that, we’re really going to bring change to Washington. We’re going to shake things up.’ ”

Since McCain selected her as his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has repeatedly cited their reputations for political independence to argue that they would be more effective in changing Washington than Obama and his vice presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

“Senator McCain has called the two of us a team of mavericks, and he knows that we’ve done some shaking up there in Alaska,” she said at the Albuquerque, N.M., convention center before a crowd of thousands.

Saturday, both campaigns also talked up their economic plans following the worst jobless report in five years and news that the Bush administration is laboring to devise a rescue plan for the nation’s mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

But it was the dispute over who can bring change that created the most friction.

On the second day of their post-convention tour, McCain and Palin sought to woo voters with their message of change in Albuquerque and, earlier in the day, in conservative Colorado Springs, Colo., at a rally in a breezy airplane hangar. But it was Palin, much more than McCain, who pressed the argument.

As she had in her speeches Friday, Palin lavished praise on McCain and ridiculed Obama for his judgment on Iraq and his “high-flown speechmaking.” “There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you, and that man is John McCain,” she said.

Palin repeatedly questioned Obama’s ability to reform Washington, but she also took aim at Biden, who has served in Congress a decade longer than McCain. “Senator Biden can claim many chairmanships across many, many years in Washington and certainly many friends in the Washington establishment,” she said, “but even those admirers could not be able to call him an agent of change.”

Obama, speaking in a pole barn where youngsters usually show off their livestock, offered a sharp critique of McCain’s widely viewed convention speech, noting that some of McCain’s top advisors were lobbyists until they went to work for his presidential campaign.

“Suddenly he’s the change agent,” Obama said. “He says, ‘I’m going to tell those lobbyists that their days of running Washington are over.’ Who’s he going to tell? Is he going to tell his campaign chairman who’s one of the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington? Is he going to tell his campaign manager who was one of the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington? Is he going to tell all the folks who are running his campaign who are the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington? Who? Who is it that he’s going to tell that change is coming? I mean, come on. They must think you’re stupid.”


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