From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
BILLINGS, MT -- Obama told a group of veterans and military families here today that McCain's long career of service was not enough to earn their votes, arguing the Arizona senator would not fight for ordinary Americans.
"I honor John McCain's service to our country, You know, he served in uniform with honor and distinction," he said. "We owe him gratitude for that. But we don't owe him our vote."
He then laid out what he said would be the choice in this election, saying McCain's tax policies and his plans for the economy would leave average families out.
"Do we have a president who gets that people are struggling everyday, who gets that veterans are struggling everyday? Or do we have somebody who doesn't get it?," he asked. "Who wants to give more tax cuts to the big corporations including Exxon-Mobil? $300 billion worth, while leave 100 million people without any tax relief whatsoever?"
The senator was introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, who will fly with him to Denver this afternoon. And Obama praised Gov. Brian Schweitzer for his convention speech last night -- and again complimented Hillary Clinton as well as his wife, Michelle.
"We've had a great convention so far. We've got -- we've had two powerful women speak back to back on each night with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton," he said.
Obama spoke for about 20 minutes before taking questions on veterans' issues, making college affordable, and dealing with high energy prices, arguing that McCain had been "asleep at the switch" when it came to promoting renewable energy.
He reiterated his stance on nuclear energy, contending that while it should be part of the approach to carbon-free energy, it would be hard to expand the use of it until storage and disposal issues are resolved. And he hit McCain for his position on a proposal to store nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.
"Not surprisingly, a whole bunch of people in Nevada were like 'hold on a second.' John McCain is in favor of Yucca Mountain, except it turned out that he didn't want the stuff shipped through Arizona to get to Nevada," he said to laughter from the crowd. "Somebody said we could have used some of his houses as -- That wasn't my joke, that was this gentleman right here, so I'm not gonna take credit for that one."
The McCain campaign has said Obama was against nuclear power, but the Democrat sought to make it clear that was not the case.
"I do think that nuclear power's gonna have to be part of the overall mix. We can't take anything off the shelf," he said.
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds emailed this response to Obama's speech: "Barack Obama's attacks are no substitute for experience and good judgment. Sen. Obama's opposition to the surge, his refusal to support an 'all of the above' energy policy, and his opposition to tax relief for small businesses shows that he lacks the experience and judgment to lead. As Obama's allies gives speeches about national security at his national convention, voters know the world is too dangerous to elect a commander-in-chief with Obama's inexperience. As Hillary Clinton said, speeches are not the same thing as experience."