Local Politics

Obama makes sixth visit to N.C.

Posted October 19, 2008 7:23 a.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2008 10:12 a.m. EDT

— Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama reached out to military families, defended his tax and economic policies, and urged his supporters to vote early during a rally at Fayetteville's Crown Coliseum Sunday afternoon.

"I am an Army wife, and I voted for Sen. Obama on the first day of early voting," Rhonda Quador said while introducing Obama in front of a crowd of 10,200 people. "And when I worry about the tough times, I go volunteer for the Obama campaign."

"This is a city and a state that knows what a soldier is," Obama said. He continued, saying that appreciation for military service extends beyond partisan politics.

"The men and women from Fayetteville and all across America who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag," Obama said. "They have not served a Red America or a Blue America; they have served the United States of America."

The Democrat touted his endorsement this morning from Gen. Colin Powell, President George Bush's first secretary of state and the former joint chief of staff.

"This morning, a great soldier, statesman and American endorsed our campaign for change," Obama said. "I am beyond honored, I am humbled to have the support of Gen. Colin Powell."

Powell had expressed disappointment in the negative tone of McCain's campaign, his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate and McCain's and Palin's decision to focus in the closing weeks of the contest on Obama's ties to 1960s-era radical William Ayers.

"I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that's why I'm supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Sen. John McCain," Powell said Sunday morning.

The News and Observer newspaper in Raleigh also endorsed Obama on Sunday.

In Fayetteville, Obama defended his tax and economic policies, answering charges that his Republican rival, John McCain, leveled during a rally in Concord Saturday.

"He and Gov. Palin have actually accused me of, get this, socialism," Obama said. "And you know why? Because I want to give a tax cut to the middle class. ... John McCain thinks that giving these Americans a break is socialism. Well, I call it opportunity, and there's nothing more American than that."

Obama said that small businesses would not be hurt and the vast majority of Americans would benefit from his proposal to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 and lower them on those making less.

"If you make less than $250,000 .... you won't see your taxes increase one single dime. Not your payroll taxes, not your income taxes, not your capital gains taxes, nothing," Obama promised. "In the America I know, we don't just value wealth; we value the work and workers who create it."

The $700 billion financial bailout plan was "necessary" to keep credit flowing and avert layoffs, Obama said, but "an immediate rescue plan for the middle class" is needed "to rebuild this economy from the bottom up.'

To re-start the economy, Obama said that as president he would: give businesses tax credits for hiring American workers; eliminate capital gains taxes for and give emergency loans to small businesses; put a 3-month moratorium on foreclosures; create a Jobs and Growth fund to help state and local governments.

Obama proposed several ways for the government to promote job growth: investing $15 billion in renewable sources of energy annually, creating 5 million jobs in decade; and employing 2 million people in building infrastructure, including roads, schools and broadband Internet connections.

He stressed that achieving such goals would take common effort and sacrifice.

"I won’t pretend that any of this will come easy or without cost," Obama said. "We will all need to tighten our belts, we will all need to sacrifice and we will all need to pull our weight because now more than ever, we are all in this together."

Obama said that his supporters could take the first step to getting his campaign promises fulfilled.

"In North Carolina, starting today, you can early vote right here, and right now," Obama said. "If you like what you hear today, don't wait until Nov. 4 to vote. ... We want to get as many votes as possible, as early as possible."

Some people attending the Obama rally were the victims of tire slashing, police said. A total of 11 vehicles had slashed tires along Wilkes Road near the Crown Coliseum on Sunday, Debbie Tanna, a spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, said.

The North Carolina Republican Party criticized the Cumberland County Board of Elections for deciding on Friday to open two more voting sites on Sunday, marking the first time Sunday voting has been available in the county.

"It is a gross distortion of the voting process for the Democrat-controlled (board) to expand the number of early polling locations at the last minute to accommodate Senator Obama’s campaign rally," Linda Daves, the GOP's state chairwoman, said. "Their action makes the voting process an extension of a partisan political rally, and that is clearly inappropriate."

Before the rally, Obama ate lunch at Cape Fear BBQ & Chicken on Grove Street and then shook hands and spoke other diners. Restaurant workers said they knew ahead of time that Obama was coming, but the customers did not and were surprised and excited.

Obama's appearance came on the heels of a visit by McCain, in Concord Saturday – signs that North Carolina has become a battleground state in the presidential election.

Recent polls have shown Obama and McCain in a dead heat in a state that has not voted for a Democratic candidate in a presidential election in 32 years.

McCain has appeared at two North Carolina rallies in the past week, but Obama has visited the state the six times since the May primary. The candidates' running mates, Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Sarah Palin, have also made solo appearances.

In an interview with WRAL News on Sunday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani talked about McCain's focus on battleground states, including North Carolina.

“We would make a terrible mistake if, as Republicans, we took North Carolina for granted. I think John McCain has got a message for people of North Carolina that will win North Carolina. By far the most experienced candidate, he’s the one who can handle crisis and problems we’ll be facing in the future, whether it’s economic or national security,” Giuliani said.

Giuliani said McCain should focus on his plans for the country from now until Election Day, instead of referring to his opponent.