Local Politics

Obama: Policies promote opportunity, not socialism

Posted October 28, 2008 6:37 p.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2008 6:17 p.m. EDT

— Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday disputed Republican charges that he was promoting socialism, telling a crowd in Raleigh that his economic plan would promote opportunity for most Americans.

Obama denounced the attacks on him by his Republican opponent, John McCain, saying McCain's desperation to win next week's election was reaching new heights.

"By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten," Obama said, prompting a roar of laughter from the estimated 28,000 people standing on Halifax Mall in the state government complex downtown.

McCain has made "Joe the plumber," an Ohio man who recently questioned Obama's tax plan when Obama was touring the man's neighborhood, a national cult figure and has built his campaign around the message that Obama wants to tax the middle-class to "spread the wealth around."

In a Fayetteville rally Tuesday, McCain said Obama "wants to punish success," and he said his own tax policies would create more wealth for everyone instead of redistributing it from the wealthy to the poor.

Obama countered that McCain's policies are the same principles President George W. Bush has used for the past eight years. Those policies eroded the standard of living for the nation's middle class and led to the ongoing chaos in the financial industry, he said.

"We've tried it John McCain's way – we've tried it George Bush's way – and it hasn't worked," he said. "Whether you're Suzy the student or Nancy the nurse or Tina the teacher or Carl the construction worker, if my opponent is elected, you will be worse off four years from now than you are today."

Obama said his plans to raise taxes on the wealthy to provide tax relief for the middle class and expanded health care coverage for millions of Americans would move the economy forward again.

"We don't need another president who fights for Washington lobbyists and Wall Street. We need a president who stands up for hard-working Americans on Main Street," he said. "John McCain calls this socialism, apparently. I call it opportunity, and there's nothing more American than that."

The rally created a parking nightmare downtown, as police closed several streets near Halifax Mall to traffic from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

Mary Little was among the throng of people who went downtown to hear Obama speak.

"Believe it or not, at first I was undecided," Little said. "What did he say that changed my mind? It's about us making a change. It starts at the base of everyone, knowing that it's not going to be easy. It never has, but he's willing to do it. If he's willing to do it, I'm willing to do it, too."

Obama has made several trips to North Carolina in recent weeks in hopes of wresting the state's 15 electoral votes from Republicans, who have taken them in every presidential race since 1980. A WRAL News poll released Monday showed Obama in a dead heat with McCain, and other recent polls also have shown a tight race.

Obama's wife, Michelle, held separate rallies Wednesday in Rocky Mount and Fayetteville.

In the early afternoon, she addressed the North Carolina Baptist Convention in Fayetteville. She then traveled to Rocky Mount Senior High School for a rally.

The events wrapped up four straight days of visits to North Carolina by the Democratic and Republican contenders.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's vice presidential running mate, held a rally in Asheville on Sunday, and U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, Obama's vice presidential running mate, appeared in Greenville and Greensboro on Monday.

Palin is scheduled to make another trip to North Carolina on Saturday, appearing at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. Doors open at 4 p.m. for the evening event, and tickets are available at campaign offices in Raleigh and Durham.

Obama urged as many supporters as possible to get to the polls before early voting closes Saturday to head off any difficulties on Election Day. The Republicans launched a vote-early tour last week, helping to shrink a wide gap that the Democrats built in the first days of balloting.

More than 1.5 million people have voted statewide since early voting began Oct. 16. Almost 60 percent have been Democrats, compared with about 25 percent who have been people enrolled as Republicans.

"North Carolina, I've got two words for you – 'six days,'" Obama said. "We cannot afford to slow down or sit back or let up one day, one minute, one second in this last week, not when there's so much at stake."