Obama attacks, links McCain to Bush economic policies
GRESHAM, Ore. — After challenging John McCain on foreign policy,
Democrat Barack Obama fired off a new broadside linking the likely
Republican nominee with President George W. Bush’s unpopular economic
policies, a tactic he is likely to rely on as part of his general
Obama was campaigning ahead of
Tuesday’s primaries in Oregon and Kentucky, which were expected to
leave him less than 100 delegates away from reaching the total 2,026
needed to secure his party’s nomination after an epic battle with
Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Obama has begun casting himself as the inevitable nominee and using his
time to distinguish himself from McCain as he pivots toward the
November election campaign. He has scheduled appearances this week in
Iowa and Florida, two key swing states that have already held their
Obama, who is bidding to be the first black U.S. president, has also
started tailoring his message to voting blocs like senior citizens that
favored Clinton in their nomination contest and will be important in
the November election.
The Illinois senator tried Sunday to undermine McCain’s appeal to
fellow senior citizens by turning to a bedrock, pocketbook issue as he
spoke to about 130 people at an assisted living facility in Gresham. He
said the Republican candidate would threaten the Social Security
retirement benefits that they depend on because he supports Bush’s
policy of privatizing the program.
“Let me be clear, privatizing Social Security was a bad idea when
George W. Bush proposed it, it’s a bad idea today,” Obama said. “That’s
why I stood up against this plan in the Senate and that’s why I won’t
stand for it as president.”
Bush proposed a Social Security plan in 2005 that focused on creating
private accounts for younger workers, but it never came up for a vote
in Congress. Democrats strongly opposed the idea and few Republicans
Obama said McCain would push to raise the retirement age for collecting
Social Security benefits or trim annual cost-of-living increases. Obama
has rejected both ideas as solutions to the funding crisis projected
for Social Security in favor of making higher-income workers pay more
into the system.
“We have to protect Social Security for future generations without
pushing the burden onto seniors who have earned the right to retire in
dignity,” he said.
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds accused Obama of making “misinformed partisan attacks.”
“John McCain has been clear about his belief that we must fix Social
Security for future generations and keep our promises to today’s
retirees, but raising taxes should not be the answer to every problem,”
He later held a spectacular outdoor rally at a sun-splashed scene on
the banks of the Willamette River in Portland. City fire officials
estimated 65,000 packed into a riverside park with an additional 15,000
left outside. Dozens of boaters floated and listened from the river.
Obama last Saturday again challenged McCain on foreign policy, arguing
that the Arizona senator would merely follow Bush’s failed policy. His
remarks came after Bush and McCain suggested Democrats could not be
trusted to be tough on terrorists.
“If you agree that we’ve had a great foreign policy over the last eight
years, then you should vote for John McCain, you shouldn’t vote for
me,” Obama told a town hall meeting in Roseburg, Ore. “That’s what this
debate is all about, that’s the choice in this election. Do you want
more of the same or do you want change?”
McCain’s spokesman Bounds argued that Obama’s foreign policy shows
“incredibly weak judgment. We’re a nation rooted in a history of
sacrifice and achievement, not in lofty campaign rhetoric or campaign
Obama campaigned over the weekend in Oregon, where polls show he is comfortably ahead.
Later on Sunday, he was to take a late flight to Montana for a day of campaigning on Monday.
Obama’s aides announced that he planned to hold a rally on primary
night Tuesday in Iowa, where his solid win in January’s leadoff
caucuses propelled him to his status as the frontrunner.
Clinton led by a big margin in Kentucky, where she planned to campaign through Tuesday’s primary.
At stake Tuesday were 51 delegates in Kentucky and 52 in Oregon. After
these primaries, Obama most likely will have secured the majority of
pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention who are
available in all the party’s primaries and caucuses, strengthening his
claim to the nomination.
Clinton, whose hopes are fast fading to become the first female U.S.
president, has insisted she is staying in the race until the last
primaries on June 3 in Montana and South Dakota.
She is hoping for a big win in Kentucky, whose demographics resemble
neighboring West Virginia, which gave her a much-needed victory last
week. Both states are overwhelmingly white, rural and have more
residents below the poverty line and without college degrees than the
national average — the kind of working-class voters who have helped
boost Clinton to victory in other states. Obama’s core supporters
include blacks, young voters and upper-income Democrats.
A prominent Democratic elder statesman, former New York Gov. Mario
Cuomo, suggested that an Obama-Clinton ticket is the best way to bridge
the divide within Democratic ranks and boost the party’s chances
“No other possible candidate has been tested the way they have,” Cuomo
said Sunday on CBS television’s “Face the Nation.” “This is the poetry
and prose coming together. It would be a wonderful solution.”
Neither candidate has ruled out a joint ticket, but both Obama and
Clinton have suggested it is presumptuous to talk about a vice
presidential choice while the primary battle continues.
Obama now enjoys a delegate advantage that makes it mathematically
unlikely for Clinton to overtake him in the remaining five contests.
Her campaign’s longshot hopes rest on winning over the influential
party leaders and elected officials known as superdelegates, who are
free to vote for any candidate at the party’s national convention this
summer in Denver, with the argument that she would be the better
Democrat to face McCain.
But Clinton, who led Obama in superdelegates for most of the year, recently lost that lead.
Obama’s overall delegate count — including superdelegates and pledged
delegates — now totals 1,909 to Clinton’s 1,721.
Associated Press writers Mike Glover in Gresham, Ore., and Sara Kugler
in Bowling Green, Ky., contributed to this report.