RALEIGH, N.C. — The two Democratic presidential candidates offered their vision for energy policies and other economic issues Friday night at the largest Jackson-Jefferson dinner in the state party's history.
Sen. Barack Obama proposed a $150 billion plan that would over 10 years invest money into alternative energies. He said the measure would free the country from its dependence on foreign oil and “save the planet in the process.”
Job creation was also on the Obama’s agenda. He said he wanted to stop giving tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs overseas.
“We need to create an economy that reflects the core decency and fairness of the American people,” Obama said.
He suggested a middle class tax cut for every American – $1,000 for working families to help with rising costs of health care and groceries.
Obama attacked likely Republican nominee John McCain’s policies on the war in Iraq. He said McCain’s plan offers no exit strategy for troops from a war that Obama believes “should have never been authorized or waged.”
“John McCain is running for George Bush’s third term, and we can’t afford another four years of George W. Bush’s policies in the White House,” Obama said.
Obama said he would support rival Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton if she won the nomination. He said the party will be united in the fall.
Clinton, who spoke an hour earlier at the event, said she would also support Obama if he won the nomination.
“If Sen. Obama is the nominee, you better believe I’ll work my heart out for him,” Clinton said. “And if I am the nominee, I know Sen. Obama will do the very same for me, because it will be a united Democratic party that goes on to victory in November.”
Clinton stressed the need to lower rising gas prices.
Clinton said she would make oil companies pay the gas taxes during the summer instead of consumers.
She bashed the Bush administration for not investigating what she calls “price gouging and market manipulation.”
Clinton said she would end $55 million tax breaks given to large corporations, including oil companies. She proposed $100 billion in middle class tax cuts.
Clinton also said she would create a cabinet position devoted to ending poverty, an issue that former Sen. John Edwards discussed when he was still a candidate for the nomination. Edwards has since dropped out of the race.
“John ran with compassion and conviction,” Clinton said.
Obama also thanked Edwards for “setting the tone” for the presidential race with his courage.
Clinton said on the education-front she would end the education initiative “No Child Left Behind” and, instead, focus on universal pre-kindergarten and college programs.
Obama also stressed the need to funding for education.
As she has promised in previous campaign speeches in the state, Clinton said she would bring soldiers home from Iraq as soon as possible. She also said provisions are needed to care for soldiers once they return home.
Clinton said she would take action to end the economic downturn.
“George Bush has dug our country into a very deep hole. We need a president that knows what it takes and has what it takes to move us forward again,” Clinton said.
Both candidates addressed the recent videos that have shown poor barracks conditions at the Army's Fort Bragg – “conditions that aren’t worthy of their sacrifice,” Obama said.
The candidates spoke the same day a WRAL News poll showed Obama had a 9 point lead over Clinton among Tar Heel Democrats. A month ago, Obama was ahead by double digits. There a 4-point margin of error in the poll, conducted by Rasmussen Reports.
Jerry Meek, state Democratic Party chair, opened the event by welcoming guests and recognizing party officials.
Other speakers at the dinner were: Senate candidate and potential Elizabeth Dole challenger Jim Neal; gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue; Neal's rival for the nomination, State Sen. Kay Hagan; gubernatorial candidate State Treasurer Richard Moore; and Gov. Mike Easley.
The Democratic Party hosted the dinner, the largest in its 78-year history in the state.
Party officials said 950 people dined, with another 4,000 in the stands. Tickets for the event sold out hours after the two presidential candidates announced they would attend. On Friday, the Democratic Party released about 100 more tickets, which also quickly sold out.
Prior to the dinner, Clinton and Obama both campaigned throughout the state on Friday.
Clinton, trying to gain more ground, crisscrossed the state, making stops in Kinston, Hendersonville and Greensboro before coming to Raleigh. Her daughter, Chelsea, campaigned in the Triad, stopping at Salem College in Winston-Salem and also in Lexington.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, stuck to the larger cities. Barack Obama appeared at a rally in Charlotte prior to appearing at the dinner. Michelle Obama appeared at an event at the Durham Armory Friday afternoon, before heading west to speak in Asheville.
The state's primary is Tuesday.