Local Politics

Obama: I don't intend to lose this election

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke before 2,500 people at a town hall meeting Tuesday night at the N.C. State Fairgrounds.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wants to double federal spending on basic scientific and technological research and develop ways to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

“We can’t have national security and our economy held hostage by (Russian Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin and (Venezuela President) Hugo Chavez,” Obama said at a town hall meeting Tuesday night at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.

Obama stressed that America cannot “drill our way out of the problem.”

“We’ve got to seize the moment. This is the time. It is serious. If we don’t handle this problem now, then $4 gas is going to look good,” Obama said.

Obama proposed investing $150 billion over the next ten years in scientific research into alternate energy forms, including solar, wind and biodiesel. He also encouraged more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“The potential for us to create millions of new jobs is there,” Obama said.

The Illinois senator attacked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the GOP's presumptive nominee, as bringing "more of the same" policies and politics.

“I don’t intend to lose this election. He can talk all he wants about Britney (Spears) and Paris (Hilton), but I don’t have time for that mess,” Obama said.

Obama was referencing McCain’s comments comparing Obama to pop culture celebrities Hilton and Spears.

Obama said he wants to focus on creating new jobs. He also wants to restore the relationship between government and citizens so both groups can “work together.”

Full funding for special education is also among the senator's goals.

Obama said he wants to focus attention on Afghanistan and finding Osama bin Laden instead of keeping attention on Iraq.

“We are going to make sure the Iraqis are carrying their share,” Obama said.

Soldiers need to be screened for post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems when returning home from duty, Obama said. A better job of transitioning veterans to civilian life is needed, he said.

At the beginning of the event, Obama recognized elected officials in attendance, including Gov. Mike Easley and former Gov. Jim Hunt.

“It seems like good things happen to me in the Carolinas. I just like the Carolinas,” Obama said. “Something about me and the Carolinas, I just get on good with them.”

Obama also took time to joke about his time on the basketball court with the University of North Carolina during a campaign stop earlier this year.

“I am still trying to recovery form that scrimmage I had with the Tar Heels … old man like me getting on the basketball court!” Obama said.

More than 2,000 tickets were available to the public, and the campaign said Monday that they were all taken in less than two hours.

“I got in a long, long line yesterday and we were lucky enough to grab some of those tickets,” Obama supporter Sharon Goodson said on Tuesday.

Obama supporters lined up outside the Exposition Center in preparation for Tuesday night’s meeting.

Ashli Blue traveled from Fayetteville to see Obama speak.

“We just ran to Raleigh as soon as we could to get tickets immediately,” Blue said.

Weather conditions from Tropical Storm Fay caused Obama to cancel an unannounced trip through eastern North Carolina Tuesday morning, campaign officials said. Obama had planned to fly from Orlando, Fla., to Kinston, N.C., and make several stops on his way to Raleigh.

Obama has made nine previous campaign visits to North Carolina, his most recent on June 9. The latest visit comes in the week before the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where he will accept his party's nomination for president.

The Obama campaign has targeted North Carolina as one of seven Republican-leaning states that it believes it can pull into the Democratic column in November.

McCain has added a full paid staff in North Carolina, but is not running television ads yet.

McCain led Obama by four percentage points in a WRAL News poll released Friday. That lead was extended from one point a month earlier.

The Democratic National Convention opens in Denver next Monday. The GOP convention begins Sept. 1.