Politics & Government

McCain and Obama battle for Western states

Sen. Barack Obama speaks during a rally at a high school in Las Vegas.
Sen. Barack Obama speaks during a rally at a high school in Las Vegas. Isaac Brekken / AP

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Republican John McCain Saturday said, “that’s not America” to describe Democrat Barack Obama’s tax proposals, and Obama said that McCain was calling him "a socialist for suggesting that we focus on tax cuts for the middle class instead of for the wealthy, for corporations."

McCain has been “throwing everything at us, including the kitchen sink _ all seven of those kitchen sinks," a reference to the GOP candidate's seven houses, Obama told an outdoor rally at a Las Vegas high school.

With 10 days left in the presidential contest, McCain and Obama campaigned Saturday in key Western states.

In Albuquerque, N.M., McCain told his supporters to ignore polls that show Obama ahead. An Arizona senator since 1987, McCain said that “Sen. Obama has never been south of our border” and that, “I know these issues. I know what the Southwest is.”

He said that America’s adversaries overseas “may want to test Sen. Obama,” comparing his own long political and military record to that of the first-term Illinois senator, who hasn't served in the military. “I have been tested. I’m gonna test them. They’re not going to test me.”

McCain then returned to a refrain that's been resonating at his rallies, the idea that Obama’s plan to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and companies and give middle-class families a tax cut is tantamount to socialism.

“He wants to spread the wealth around. He believes in redistributing wealth,” McCain told perhaps 1,500 people at the New Mexico State Fair Grounds, although the campaign didn't release an official crowd estimate. “We’ve seen that movie before in other countries. That’s not America.”

America, however, has had a progressive income tax for 95 years, and McCain himself has previously endorsed the idea that wealthy people should pay more in taxes than less fortunate Americans do.

McCain’s fans at the New Mexico rally said they'd remain loyal.

Sam Sampson, an Albuquerque real estate and mortgage broker, said of Obama, “He may not be a member of the Socialist Party, but he wants to take a group of people’s money and give it to other people.”

In Las Vegas, Obama called McCain's criticism of President Bush's economic policies "like Tonto attacking the Lone Ranger," and he got a big laugh when he called the charge that he'd continue President Bush's economic policies "loco."

Earlier Saturday, Obama told an audience of 11,000 at the University of Nevada-Reno not to believe McCain’s attempts to distance himself from President Bush in the final days of the campaign.

Obama, back on the mainland after a whirlwind day-long visit to his ailing grandmother’s bedside in Hawaii, said his grandmother is "having a tough time right now," and thanked those who'd sent prayers, cards and flowers. “It meant the world to her, it means the world to me,” he said.

In Washoe County in traditionally Republican Nevada, Obama’s campaign said that Democrats last week picked up a 1,000-voter registration advantage over Republicans for the first time in three decades. In the last presidential election, the campaign said, there were 17,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats in the state.

Marcie Collins, a union videographer who attended the Obama rally in Las Vegas and has been knocking on doors for his campaign, said people there are devastated by home foreclosures and the economy. On her most recent day of canvassing, she said, she found pro-Obama households more enthusiastic and more prevalent than pro-McCain households were.

McCain and Obama will be chasing each other around the country in the next few days. Following McCain to Albuquerque, Obama addressed a Saturday night crowd at the University of New Mexico that university fire marshal Vince Leonard estimated at 35,000 inside and another 10,000-15,000 outdoors. Obama then was to travel Sunday to Colorado, where McCain made three stops on Friday.

Obama leads by an average of about 8 percentage points in New Mexico, according to Real Clear Politics averages, and he’s up by 6.5 percentage points in Colorado and by 3.3 in Nevada.

While Obama has largely been focused on trying to pick up states that voted for President Bush in 2004, his campaign said Saturday that he'd return to Pennsylvania next week for two stops. McCain’s retooled strategy depends largely on a long-shot attempt to win Pennsylvania, and if Obama can hold his own lead there, it could curb McCain’s prospects.


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