State News

Obama appears at Asheville rally

Posted October 5, 2008 8:27 a.m. EDT
Updated October 6, 2008 10:41 a.m. EDT

— Presidential candidate Barack Obama hoped to galvanize Democratic voters Sunday afternoon with his fourth speech in North Carolina in the past three weeks.

Campaign officials estimated that 28,000 people crowded around Asheville High School's Memorial Stadium to hear Obama speak.

Obama promised to provide "affordable, accessible health care" to every American by the end of his first term, if elected.

Even in the midst of a "the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," he said, "the question is not if we can afford but why we cannot afford health care."

Liz Allen, a registered nursing assistant at in Asheville, introduced Obama and praised his health care plan.

"Everybody who thinks that everyone can afford health care should spend a day in my shoes," Allen said. "It is heartbreaking, and Americans deserve better."

Obama proposed five steps to cutting health care costs:

  • getting drug companies to cut the cost of medicines
  • providing insurance coverage for prevention programs, such as weight-loss and smoking-cessation
  • cutting inefficiency, including paperwork
  • reducing the cost of care by improving the quality of care
  • having government paying for some of the cost of care for catastrophic, expensive illnesses.

By contrast, Obama said, the plan endorsed by the GOP's nominee, John McCain, is "radical, out of touch with what you are going through, out of line with what we know."

National and North Carolina Republicans argued that Obama's health care plan would end up raising taxes.

"Barack Obama and Joe Biden have consistently lied to Americans about John McCain's plan," Doug Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy adviser for McCain, said in a statement. "Their claims have failed every fact check – from CBS to the Washington Post."

"In a struggling economic environment, Obama’s job-killing taxes will not lead to economic recovery and will harm the middle class," Linda Daves, chair of the state GOP party said. "On the stump, Obama makes plenty of promises, but elections have to be about more than how much a candidate can promise. ... 

"On tax cuts for the middle class, Barack Obama lacks credibility. There is no reason for North Carolinians to hope for a sudden change if he is elected.”

Obama responded to comments Sunday in which Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin questioned his one-time political connection to William Ayers, a 1960s radical who founded the Weather Underground, which conducted several fatal bombings.

Instead of addressing current issues, Obama said, "Senator McCain’s campaign has announced that they plan to turn the page on the discussion about our economy and spend the final weeks of this campaign launching Swiftboat-style attacks on me."

"Senator McCain and his operatives are gambling that he can distract you with smears rather than talk to you about substance," Obama said.

Obama is staying in North Carolina's mountains to prepare for Tuesday night's debate in Tennessee against Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

Obama appeared in Asheville for the first time as part of an aggressive campaign trying to get the state's 15 electoral votes from the Republican column.

In her introduction, Allen appealed directly to western North Carolinians for their votes.

"Western North Carolina, we have 30 days to elect a leader who puts the interests of hard-working Americans first. That leader is Barack Obama," Allen said.

Obama made a surprise appearance at the Democrat state party's biggest annual fund raiser, the Vance-Aycock Dinner, in Asheville Saturday night. His wife, Michelle, will hold a round-table discussion with military families in Jacksonville on Tuesday.

Although McCain has not visited the state since the May primary, campaign officials say they are not taking North Carolina for granted.

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin plans to hold a rally Tuesday at East Carolina University in Greenville. Doors open at Minges Coliseum, 1 Ficklen Drive, at 4 p.m

"We don't ever take anything for granted," Daves said Friday, adding that the prospect of Palin's visit has energized the GOP statewide.

"We literally have lines of volunteers waiting to come in and get in the door of some of our campaign headquarters, waiting to do some work," Daves said. "It shows our commitment and our seriousness to not allow Barack Obama to come in and really think that he can own North Carolina."

Veterans' and sportsmen's' groups held events for the McCain-Palin campaign in Pittsboro and Harmony Saturday.

Polls released late last week by WRAL News and Elon University showed the candidates in a statistical dead heat, though Obama gained voters pessimistic about the economy.

North Carolina has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.