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Obama focuses on middle America

He doesn't veer much from economic issues in a visit to Wisconsin, where he says America faces stark choices.

August 25, 2008|Michael Finnegan and Nicholas Riccardi | Times Staff Writers

EAU CLAIRE, WIS. — On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama on Sunday framed the November election as a choice between watching the nation "get run into the ground" under another Republican president or "solving the big problems" that America faces.

Obama also gave a preview of the speech that his wife, Michelle, will give tonight at the Denver gathering, describing it as a biographical sketch of them that could reassure voters wary of his candidacy.

"You'll have a sense of who she is, and what our values are, and how we're raising our kids," Obama told a few hundred supporters gathered under weeping willows here in a lakefront park.

"And I think what you'll conclude is: He's sort of like us. He comes from a middle-class background. He went to school on scholarships. He had to pay off student loans. He and his wife had to worry about child care. They had to figure out how to start a college fund for their kids."

As for his own speech, set for Thursday night, Obama said, "It may not be as good as the other headliners, the first three nights, but hopefully it will make clear the choice that the American people are going to face in November."

The Illinois senator came under attack from Republicans, who took an unusual swipe at Obama for bypassing New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate and instead selecting Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.

Republican rival John McCain took a day off from the campaign trail and attended church and a baseball game, but his campaign released a new TV spot asserting that Clinton was overlooked for the No. 2 slot on the Democratic ticket because she judged Obama harshly during the primary. The Arizona senator's ad quotes Clinton saying that "you never hear the specifics" of Obama's plans and that Obama's campaign had turned "increasingly negative."

"She won millions of votes but isn't on the ticket," an announcer says. "Why? For speaking the truth."

David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, responded that the presumptive Democratic nominee had "high regard" for Clinton. "She's going to be an important voice in this campaign," he said. "She's going to be an important voice in moving this country forward in the next administration."

A Clinton spokeswoman released a statement saying that Clinton and Obama "share a commitment to changing the direction of the country, getting us out of Iraq, and expanding access to healthcare. John McCain doesn't."

The Republicans' attack appeared to be an attempt to stoke lingering resentment among Clinton supporters who watched their candidate fall barely short of the delegates needed to win the nomination.

Campaigning in Wisconsin, Obama said Biden would be a "great counselor on international crises that may come up." But he mostly talked about the economy before a crowd gathered around picnic tables at a park, and portrayed McCain as out of touch with working Americans.

The election, Obama said, is about "whether we are going to allow ourselves to watch this country get run into the ground, whether we are going to do the same old things over and over and over again and somehow expect a different result, or whether we are finally going to decide: Not this time."


Finnegan reported from Wisconsin, Riccardi from Colorado.

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