From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Obama condemned the Paris Hilton ad today as the latest of McCain's "predictable political attacks" and sought to portray his opponent as looking out for profitable big oil contributors instead of the working class.
"Given the magnitude of our challenges when it comes to energy and health care and jobs and our foreign policy, you'd think that we'd be having a serious debate," Obama told residents of this flood-ravaged town. "But so far, all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what this election's about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?"
Hours after Exxon-Mobil announced a record $12 billion quarterly profit, Obama whacked the oil industry. "While big oil is making record profits," he said, "you're paying record prices at the pump, and our economy is leaving working people behind."
Obama defended his opposition to expanded offshore oil drilling, saying it wouldn't provide "short-term relief or medium-term relief or, in fact, long-term relief."
"Now, although it won't save you dollars at the pump, I have to say that it has helped raise campaign dollars," he added. "Because last month, Senator McCain raised more than a million dollars from -- guess who? -- oil and gas company executives and employees – most of whom, most of these campaign contributions came after he went to Houston to meet with a bunch of oil executives and announce that he was in favor of offshore drilling. That's not a strategy designed to end our energy crisis, it's a strategy designed to get politicians through an election."
Obama also kept up his pitch on economic issues, and again claimed that McCain is resorting to negative attacks instead of offering solutions. He said he did not want to get into a "tit-for-tat," but noted McCain "has fallen back into the predictable political attacks -- demonstrably false statements."
Obama concluded the rally with a similar riff about which candidate really was the riskiest choice. Notably, however, he did not allude again to attacks on his name, or the idea that he did not look like other presidents on dollar bills -- a line the McCain camp has suggested is invoking the "race card."
"All they're doing is churning out the same stuff they've done every four years!" Obama said. "All you do is you, you just replace the name then you say he's too liberal, he's soft, and he's and this he's that, he's going to raise your taxes. It's the same arguments that they've made over and over and over again."
Before the town hall meeting at Coe College, Obama met with some families who had been affected by the flooding here. He promised as president to "be a strong, swift, effective" partner with local governments in the event of future natural disasters.
He also claimed special ties to the city, since it was his first stop as a candidate in 2007.
"The skeptics predicted I wouldn't go very far," he said. "The cynics dismissed it as a lot of hype, a lot of celebrity, a little too much hope. By the fall, the pundits had all but written us off. You guys remember this. The politics and the attacks haven't changed much."