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CAMPAIGN '08: THE REPUBLICANS

Palin sticks to the script in Florida

November 02, 2008|Seema Mehta | Mehta is a Times staff writer.

Ocala, Fla. — Sarah Palin barnstormed in central Florida on Saturday, telling supporters at three rallies that Republican running mate John McCain is the one man in the presidential race who can fix the nation's economy and that Barack Obama is a tax-and-spend liberal.

"The choice could not be clearer: Only John McCain has the experience and the wisdom to get our economy back on track. . . . He has a pro-private sector, pro-growth plan that will put government back on your side," the vice presidential nominee told thousands gathered at a high school baseball field here as huge flags fluttered overhead.

"You should not think you have to work for government," she said.

"Your government should be working for you."

Both campaigns have been competing fiercely in the Sunshine State, which has 27 electoral votes.

At this point, polls indicate the race is a tossup.

In Florida, 1 in 4 voters is a senior, and the Alaska governor accused the Democratic ticket of trying to scare seniors in order to secure their support. In campaign stops and advertising here, Democrats have questioned McCain's support for a proposal -- backed by President Bush -- that would have allowed workers to invest the Social Security taxes withheld from their paychecks in the stock market. Republicans, however, countered that the plan, never approved by Congress, would not have affected those who currently collect Social Security.

At each of her half-hour rallies, Palin pledged to protect Social Security and not eliminate a single Medicare benefit.

"Barack Obama goes around promising a new kind of politics, right? He's promised even campaigning wouldn't be the way of the old," she said. "But then he comes down here to Florida and he tries to exploit the fears and the worries of our retirees about their Social Security and Medicare. That is the oldest and cheapest kind of politics there is."

The crowds adore Palin, who bounds onto the stage in heels to songs such as "Redneck Woman" by Gretchen Wilson and "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton. She is hewing closely to her scripted stump speech, in contrast with a few weeks ago, when her off-the-cuff remarks about the campaign pulling out of Michigan and her new six-figure wardrobe reportedly drove a wedge between herself and the McCain staff.

Crowds roar when Palin mentions Joe the Plumber, whose interaction with Obama resulted in the Democratic nominee saying it was a good idea to "spread the wealth."

McCain has pledged to cut taxes for everyone. Obama has pledged that under his plan, those who earn less than $250,000 would not see their taxes go up -- and that the majority would get a tax cut.

Palin seized on recent statements by Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson, the Democratic governor of New Mexico, that suggested the bar would be lower. "His whole tax plan, it's so phony that it's starting to unravel already," she said. "It seems like every few days, the light is shining brighter and brighter on this plan."

She concluded by asking, "Will you hire us?" The response? A resounding "Yes!"

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

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