From Mark Hudspeth and Aswini Anburajan
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Has the general election already started?
Obama, with the backdrop of a roaring crowd of thousands behind him at Ohio State University lit into McCain's comments earlier today that he didn't know that "al Qaeda IS in Iraq."
Obama referenced last night's debate in Cleveland and explained Russert's hypothetical question on whether he would send troops back into Iraq to strike al Qaeda.
"I said, well I would always reserve the right to go in and strike against al Qaeda if they were in Iraq," Obama said. "So, you know, this is how politics works. McCain thought that he could make a clever point by saying, 'Well, let me give you some news Barack, al Qaeda IS in Iraq,' like I wasn't reading the papers. Like I didn't know what was going on."
Obama went on to lay the blame for terrorist activity in Iraq on McCain's shoulders. "But I have some news for John McCain," Obama said, "and that was that there's no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq!"
He added: "I've gone some news for John McCain: He took us into a war, along with George Bush, that should have never been authorized and never been waged. They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11, and that would be al Qaeda in Afghanistan that is stronger now than anytime since 2001."
"I've been paying attention John McCain! That's the news," Obama roared into the mic so loudly that he was barely intelligible. The crowd of college students screamed encouragingly.
"So John McCain may like to say he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell," Obama said, "but so far all he's done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that's cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars."
Obama went on to promise to end the war in Iraq and take on al Qaeda in Afghanistan, repeating, "That's the news John McCain!" over and over again. And repeating a refrain that has come to be his signature line of attack against the 71-year-old senator, Obama told the crowd that McCain represents "the politics of yesterday," while he promised that he represents "the party of tomorrow."