SCOTT SIMON, host:
John McCain and Barack Obama sounded warnings yesterday. Senator McCain warned Latino voters that Senator Obama would raise taxes, while Senator Obama issued his own warning about his opponent's plans for Medicare. We begin with NPR's Scott Horsley who's traveling with the McCain campaign.
SCOTT HORSLEY: The real-life Joe the Plumber would likely get a tax break under Barack Obama, since his income is well below the quarter-million-dollar threshold where Obama's tax hikes kick in. But that hasn't stopped John McCain from using the Ohio man's encounter with Obama last weekend to punctuate his own anti-tax message. At a campaign rally in Miami, McCain warned that when Obama talks about spreading the wealth around, voters should hold on to their wallets.
(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally)
Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): His plan gives away your tax dollars to those that don't pay taxes. That's not a tax cut. That's welfare.
(Soundbite of crowd jeering)
HORSLEY: McCain's camp complains that some of the refundable tax credits promised under Obama's plan should not be described as tax cuts because the recipients are too poor to pay income taxes in the first place. The Obama camp disagrees, saying the credits would offset payroll taxes and other levies. The semantic battle could be important since tax cuts are more politically palatable than welfare payments. Whatever the reality of plumber Joe Wurzelbacher's situation, he's become a powerful symbol for many McCain supporters. Some carry signs saying, "Let Joe Keep His Dough." And they boo lustily whenever McCain quotes Obama about wanting to spread the wealth around.
Mr. RAFAEL BARCA: The American people work very hard, and they want to keep their money. We don't want the government to take it. That's the bottom line. Socialism is what it is. And coming from Cuba, we heard that story before.
HORSLEY: Rafael Barca is part of the large Cuban-American community in South Florida. He not only liked what he heard about taxes at yesterday's rally, but also McCain's promise not to negotiate, as Obama said he would, with the leaders of Cuba, Iran or Venezuela.
Mr. BARCA: How can we negotiate with Castro, you know, or the guy in Iran or Chavez? It's like completely ridiculous. McCain has the vision for America, and he's the one who will keep us safe.
HORSLEY: Right now McCain is fighting to safeguard Florida for the Republicans, along with a handful of other red states. He campaigns today in North Carolina and Virginia before heading on to Ohio, Joe the plumber's home state. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Charlotte, North Carolina.
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