In Ohio, McCain Attacks Obama on Taxes

Republican presidential candidate John McCain has told supporters in Ohio that his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, will raise taxes on the middle class. With five days left for the presidential election, McCain is touring swing states.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. We begin this hour on the campaign trail with the day's battleground state duels over taxes, socialism and whose policies will most help Joe the Plumber. First, John McCain is back on the Straight Talk Express. He spent the day traveling through Ohio. And NPR's Scott Horsley was with him.

SCOTT HORSLEY: John McCain is in the midst of a two-day bus tour through Ohio. His first stop today, a town called Defiance.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally, Defiance, Ohio)

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): We're a few points down, but we're coming back.

HORSLEY: Polls do show McCain trailing in Ohio, but an enthusiastic crowd greeted the candidate on a chilly morning. Retired corn farmer Dick Martin drove in from nearby Fayette, Ohio. He thinks McCain has the right stuff.

Mr. DICK MARTIN (Retired Corn Farmer): Well, he's been around a long time. He served his country very well for a long time. And I think he has the experience that I want to see in a man in there in office.

HORSLEY: Martin thinks McCain's background will be useful not only for tackling foreign crises, but also for dealing with the nation's struggling economy.

Mr. MARTIN: This economic thing kind of snuck up on most of us. It certainly did me. I had no idea that our world was this fragile in an economic way.

HORSLEY: The economic turmoil of recent weeks snuck up on McCain, as well, and put the Republican at a disadvantage since more Americans say they trust Obama to deal with economic issues. In Florida yesterday, McCain briefly tried to change the subject. He held a roundtable on national security threats. Security may have taken a backseat to pocketbook issues, he said, but that's only temporary.

(Soundbite of Republican national security roundtable, Tampa, Florida)

Senator MCCAIN: These dangers have not gone away while we turned our attention elsewhere. And the next president will meet no greater test than defending America from these threats.

HORSLEY: Turning back to the economy, in Ohio today McCain warned that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class. Obama's promised not to raise taxes on families making less than a quarter million dollars a year. But McCain's been challenging that pledge ever since Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher, who makes far less, questioned Obama about his tax plan.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally, Defiance, Ohio)

Senator MCCAIN: Joe is with us today. Joe, where are you? Where is Joe? Is Joe here with us today? Joe, I thought you were here today. All right, well, you're all Joe the Plumbers. So all of you stand up and say - I thank you.

HORSLEY: Joe did materialize at a later stop. His question and Obama's answer that he wants to spread the wealth around raises concerns with a lot of McCain supporters, like Todd Walters(ph) who attended a McCain rally in Pennsylvania earlier this week.

Mr. TODD WALTERS: You know, Obama wants to take away our freedoms. He wants to turn the country into a socialist country. And you know, I think for once in my life, I'm trying to get everybody I can to stand for what's right. Otherwise, I think the country is in great danger.

HORSLEY: Pennsylvania is one of the only blue states where McCain is still campaigning and hopes that a Republican upset there might offset Democratic gains elsewhere. Polls show McCain farther behind in Pennsylvania than either Ohio or Florida, but Walters thinks his state is not out of reach.

Mr. WALTERS: You know, hopefully Pennsylvania will go for John McCain. I mean - and Sarah Palin. I mean, you know, we have two cities on either end that, you know, go Democrat, and everything else in between is rural. And I think, you know, we're John McCain country here.

HORSLEY: McCain is hoping that's true next door as well, as he rolls through the stubbled cornfields of rural Ohio. Scott Horsley, NPR News, traveling with the McCain campaign.

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