McCain Defends Territory In Va., N.C. He spent Saturday in two states that Republicans are used to winning, and that his campaign can ill afford to lose.
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McCain Defends Territory In Va., N.C.

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McCain Defends Territory In Va., N.C.

McCain Defends Territory In Va., N.C.

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SCOTT HORSLEY: And I'm Scott Horsley with the McCain campaign. John McCain spent yesterday in two states that Republicans are used to winning and that his campaign can ill afford to lose.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally in Virginia)

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): It's great to be here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is a must-win state.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally in North Carolina)

Senator MCCAIN: We have to win the state of North Carolina, and I'm counting on you to do it.

HORSLEY: Polls show McCain is trailing Barack Obama in Virginia and North Carolina. Yesterday, a McCain adviser blamed the Virginia gap on Democrats moving into the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. She predicted McCain would still do well in what she called the real Virginia. In North Carolina, McCain told a crowd of several thousand supporters he is encouraged by the enthusiasm of recent campaign rallies, and a lot of that enthusiasm is focused on Joe the Plumber.

(Soundbite of Republican campaign rally in North Carolina)

Senator MCCAIN: He's the only person to get a real answer out of Senator Obama about his plans for this country.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

HORSLEY: Last weekend, Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher asked Obama about his plan to raise taxes on businesses and families making more than a quarter million dollars a year. Obama replied, right now, everybody's so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody. McCain has been ridiculing that at campaigns stops ever since.

Senator MCCAIN: Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others, it isn't a tax cut, it's just another government giveaway.

HORSLEY: According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, 80 percent of Americans would enjoy more after-tax income under Obama's plan, while the wealthiest 20 percent would have more under McCain's policy. McCain complains that some of those who would benefit from Obama's proposal make too little to pay any income tax now, even if they are subject to the payroll tax.

Senator MCCAIN: Since you can't reduce taxes on those who pay zero, the government will write them all checks called a tax credit.

(Soundbite of crowd jeering)

Senator MCCAIN: And the Treasury will have to cover those checks by taxing other people, including a lot of folks just like Joe.

HORSLEY: In fact, the real Joe the Plumber would almost certainly get a tax break under Obama's plan. The Illinois senator has promised not to raise taxes on businesses or families making less than $250,000 a year, or 200,000 for individuals. But a lot of people attending McCain's rallies simply don't believe that.

Mr. DAVID MEACHAM (Trucking Company Proprietor): That's bull. That's bull. It's all bull. I have never seen a Democrat who wouldn't raise taxes, so I don't believe that at all.

HORSLEY: David Meacham owns a small trucking company. His daughter Leah held a hand-painted sign provided by the campaign. It read, "Joe the Plumber is the heart and soul of North Carolina."

Mr. MEACHAM: That means there's a whole bunch of us Joe the Plumbers out, and don't take our money, and don't redistribute the wealth. Let us keep our money, and we'll figure out what we want to do with it.

HORSLEY: Joe the Plumber has become a useful shorthand for McCain's critique of Obama's tax plan, much as "drill, baby, drill" helped to summarize his energy policy. On Friday, McCain actually spoke by telephone with Joe the Plumber for the first time. And today, he'll be campaigning in Wurzelbacher's home state of Ohio. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Columbus.

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