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CAMPAIGN '08: The Democrats

Candidates on separate tracks

May 28, 2008|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

NORTH LAS VEGAS, NEV. — Barack Obama criticized Republican rival John McCain on two tracks Tuesday, linking him to the policies of the Bush administration and deriding his economic proposals as proof that he is "out of touch with the struggles of working people."

As Obama campaigned against McCain here, Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared in Montana, where Democrats will vote next Tuesday in one of the nation's last primaries.

The differing paths the two Democratic candidates took Tuesday signaled the looming end of their contest, with Obama campaigning as though he already is his party's standard-bearer and Clinton still contesting the nomination.

Obama, in the midst of a three-day swing of potential Western battleground states, used the struggles of a Las Vegas family facing foreclosure over skyrocketing mortgage payments to illustrate what has emerged as a key theme of his campaign -- the nation's sputtering economy.

Obama visited the single-story stucco home of Felicitas Rosel, a maid, and her husband, Francisco Cano, a porter. The casino workers bought their first home three years ago with an adjustable-rate mortgage. Rising rates have pushed them to the brink of foreclosure.

"This is a serious problem all across Las Vegas, all across Nevada, all across the nation," the Illinois senator said. "A lot of this wouldn't have happened if we would have done a better job regulating banks."

Later, talking to supporters here at the College of Southern Nevada, Obama returned to the theme, noting that McCain said early in the campaign that "economics is not something I've understood as well as I should have."

In addition, he accused McCain in an economic speech last week of ignoring the mortgage crisis.

Obama also mocked the Arizona senator over a private fundraiser Tuesday featuring President Bush.

"No cameras. No reporters. And we all know why," he said. "Sen. McCain doesn't want to be seen, hat in hand, with the president whose failed policies he promises to continue for another four years."

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said the candidate previously had proposed a solution to the mortgage crisis and on Tuesday launched ads in swing states "highlighting his intentions to fight foreclosures."

"That didn't stop Barack Obama from making a misinformed political attack," Bounds said. "When Barack Obama's best ideas include nearly $50 billion of taxpayer money with no guarantee that it won't end up in the hands of speculators, and tax hikes on small businesses that provide the paying jobs Americans need, it's clear that he just isn't ready to lead our economy."

Clinton, at an evening rally in Billings, Mont., also cited McCain -- but it largely was to argue that she would be the stronger Democratic candidate against him.

The New York senator acknowledged Obama's "deep base of support here" but otherwise spoke of her opponent obliquely.

"I know that in this campaign there has been a lot of beautiful rhetoric and excitement," Clinton said, adding that she had "run a campaign focused on solutions."

Clinton also lashed out at "the failed policies of this Republican administration" and added that "it's been a long time since the economy has stuttered and sputtered so much."


Times staff writer Louise Roug in Montana contributed to this report.

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