HARRISONBURG, Va. — Barack Obama will focus on the economy and how his tax plans would help the middle class in a half-hour political infomercial Wednesday night.
The program, scheduled to run on television networks on the 79th anniversary of the stock-market crash of 1929, "will share the specifics of Obama's plans to turn the economy around and get the country back on track," campaign spokesman Bill Burton said Tuesday.
"We want to make sure every voter heading into the voting booth knows exactly what Barack Obama would do to bring about fundamental change as president," he said.
A Obama senior campaign adviser, who spoke on condition that his name be withheld, said that most of the program is pre-taped but toward the end will go live to Florida, where Obama is holding campaign rallies Wednesday night.
The program will feature "a mix of things," the adviser said, including Obama and families from across the country talking about the challenges they face in the current economy. The adviser wouldn't say if any other politicians or economic experts would be featured.
The program will air at 8 p.m. EDT on NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision, BET, MSNBC and TV One, and at various times in other time zones.
While Obama continues to lead Republican John McCain nationally and in battleground states, a new Ipsos/McClatchy Poll suggests that the race has tightened, as McCain has used Joe the Plumber, an Ohio voter who worried that Obama's plans would raise his taxes, to paint the Illinois senator as a socialist.
Obama leads McCain by 48 percent to 42 percent nationally in the poll released Tuesday, down from an 8-point lead the week before. Significantly, the survey found that Obama's advantage on jobs and the economy had fallen from 16 points to 7 points in one week, suggesting that McCain's "Joe the Plumber" tactic had scored.
Obama is the first presidential candidate since Ross Perot in 1992 to purchase half-hour prime-time slots. With millions left in his campaign war chest, he has the cash on hand to buy the time to drill his message home and answer McCain's criticisms and allegations six days before the election. The Arizona senator had no comparable plans for a national television buy.
The economy continued to be a focus of both candidates' stump speeches on the campaign trail Tuesday. They began in the Democratic-leaning battleground state of Pennsylvania and made their way south to Virginia and North Carolina, two states that voted for President Bush but could swing to Obama this year.
"Senator Obama is running to be redistributionist in chief. I'm running to be commander in chief. Senator Obama is running to spread the wealth," McCain said at an event in Hershey, Pa., that drew about 8,000. He was criticizing Obama's plans to raise taxes on the wealthy and big businesses and reduce them for joint filers who earn less than $250,000 a year.
Obama said that theories of trickle-down economics and lax regulation promoted by Bush and McCain had led to the economic crisis, and that it was McCain, who's proposed taxing employer health benefits in conjunction with a health-care tax credit, not Obama, who ultimately could raise taxes on the middle class.
"John McCain has ridden shotgun as George Bush has driven our economy toward a cliff," Obama said, "and now he wants to take the wheel and step on the gas."
At an afternoon rally at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., Obama seized on remarks published earlier in the day on the CNNMoney.com Web site in which McCain senior adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin explains an aspect of how McCain's health insurance proposals might work.
Some critics have said that younger, healthy workers might drop employer coverage to avoid the tax under McCain's plan. Holtz-Eakin disputed that, saying, "Why would they leave? What they are getting from their employer is way better than what they could get with the credit."
Obama, taking some liberties with Holtz-Eakin's point, told the Virginia rally that McCain's top economic adviser "actually said that the health insurance people currently get from their employer is, and I quote, 'way better' than the health care they would get if John McCain were president. Now this is the point I've been making since Senator McCain unveiled his plan. It took until the last seven days of this election for his campaign to finally admit the truth. But better late than never."
Obama also said of McCain's painting him as a socialist, "I don't really think he's serious about that; I just think he's desperate."
Rain was the operative word in Pennsylvania, where both presidential candidates started the day.
McCain's rally in Hershey was indoors. He canceled a second event at an outdoor venue in Quakertown because of cold, driving downpours.
Obama braved the rain, bareheaded, in a pair of jeans and a water-resistant jacket, when 9,000 of his supporters came out hours early in winter caps, mud shoes and umbrellas to hear him speak outdoors at Widener University in Chester.
"A little bit of rain never hurt anybody," Obama joked, but he later told the crowd that he appreciated their dedication.
"It's not easy standing in the cold and in the rain," he said. "But you also know this is the time to come together."
He asked for their help turning out friends and family to the polls: "Be as determined as you are today."
His staff whisked him back to his hotel to shower and change, and hoped that he'd avoid catching cold between now and Election Day.
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