Candidates Take A Swing Through The West

Correction Oct. 27, 2008

In some versions of this story, we incorrectly described New Mexico as "the swing state next to Nevada." New Mexico and Nevada are not contiguous.

Just 10 days before the election, Barack Obama returned to the campaign trail, trading jabs with John McCain as both candidates took Western swings.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, it's All Thing Considered. I'm Andrea Seabrook. After a quick break to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii, Barack Obama jumped back into the thick of the presidential campaign today. His first stop, the mountain west, where his opponent John McCain built his political career. Here's Obama in Reno, Nevada today mocking Senator McCain's efforts to distance himself from President Bush.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; 2008 Democratic Presidential Nominee): In fact, John McCain is so opposed to George Bush's policies that he voted with him 90 percent of the time for the first eight years. That's right. He decided to really stick it to George Bush 10 percent of the time.

SEABROOK: NPR's Audie Cornish was at that rally in Reno. And Audie, how much of Obama's speech today was devoted to tying McCain to Bush?

AUDIE CORNISH: Probably, he could 90 percent of it. Senator Obama took to the stage, and the first thing he did was thank people for sending well wishes to him and to his grandmother and how much it meant to him, and it was a sort of a sweet moment. And then, almost immediately after, he shifted gears and the tone was like, OK, and let's get down to, you know, the brass knuckles or brass tacks, whatever the term may be, and really link John McCain with George Bush. And that's something he's done throughout the campaign, but you really get the sense that this is the message in the homestretch.

SEABROOK: I understand Senator Obama is spending the whole weekend out in the West. Did he focus much on the region in his speech today?

CORNISH: Nothing too specific. He talked a lot about his home foreclosure policy. He wants a three month moratorium to help homeowners who are in trouble get back on their feet. And in Reno and in Nevada, this state has a very high foreclosure rate, and it's hit them very hard. So that, obviously, got a big response from the crowd. But other than that, he is staying focused on his tax policy, what's different between him and John McCain, his economic policy, what's the difference between him and John McCain, and healthcare.

SEABROOK: NPR's Audie Cornish in Reno, Nevada. Thanks very much, Audie.

CORNISH: Thank you.

SEABROOK: John McCain started his day in a nearby swing state, New Mexico. He acknowledged that he's trailing Senator Obama there but said his time in Arizona gives him strength in the western states.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee): My friends, I'm a fellow westerner. I understand these issues. I understand land and water and Native American issues and border issues, and I understand the challenges that the great, great western states face with our growth and with our needs and our challenges.

SEABROOK: NPR's Ina Jaffe is traveling with the McCain campaign today, and she's on the line from Albuquerque. Ina, it's clear Senator McCain hasn't given up in the West, despite the polls showing him behind in Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. What's going on?

INA JAFFE: He hasn't given up in the West on the one hand. On the other hand, this is probably going to be last trip he makes here. He's probably going to be concentrating on those swing states in the eastern half of the country where he thinks he can possibly turn this election around. So, he's been cutting back on ads, for example, in Colorado. And this was kind of his last pitch to westerners.

SEABROOK: Last swing out there, too, in this home turf. We're just 10 days from the election. Ina, what's the message that he's giving to voters today?

JAFFE: He's really giving two messages that he's been giving to some extent from the very beginning, one is his biography, that he's been fighting for this country since he was 17 years old, and that he's one with experience, and the other is, lower taxes and less government spending, traditional Republican ideas, but they've been given a populous twist ever since the Joe the Plumber episode. And he accuses Barack Obama of trying to spread the wealth, which always gets a lot of boos from the crowd. And he also criticizes Washington for bailing out the banks without helping the homeowners, as he wants to do by buying up bad mortgages.

SEABROOK: Ina, thanks for the update.

JAFFE: You're welcome.

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