From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
NEW PHILADELPHIA, OH -- During his second trip to the crucial battleground state of Ohio since his convention wrapped up in Denver last week, Obama slammed Republicans for ignoring economic issues on the first night of their convention -- furthering his argument that his GOP rivals do not understand the concerns of hardworking families.
"Not once did people mention the hardships that folks are going though, not once did they mention what are we going to do about keeping jobs here in Ohio," he said of the speakers on stage in St. Paul, MN last night. "Not once did they mention what are we doing about all these retirees that are losing their pensions. Not once did they mention how are we going to make sure that Social Security is there for the next generation. Not once did they mention how are we going to make college more affordable so that young people aren't taking out $40,000 or $50,000 in debt. Not once did they mention how are we going to make sure people can stay in their homes."
He also referred to comments McCain campaign manager Rick Davis made to the Washington Post. "This election is not about issues," Davis told the paper. "This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates."
"I guess I don't blame them, because if you don't have any issues to run on, I guess you want it all to be on personality," he told the crowd of about 220 people, assembled by invite only in a boiling hot outdoor courtyard at a satellite campus of Kent State University. "And if you've got George Bush's track record and John McCain voting 90% of the time in agreement with George Bush, then you probably don't want to talk about the issues either."
Obama's focus on kitchen-table issues is designed to attract voters whose top concern is the economy. In his brief remarks at the town hall, which was billed as a "Women's Economic Event," he criticized McCain on taxes, the economy, health care, and other issues. He also used a book by the economist Larry Bartels -- "Unequal Democracy" -- to argue that Republicans had a bad track record for helping ordinary Americans.
"There's a book that's come out right now, by prominent economist -- irrefutable -- looking at the evidence showing that when Democrats have been in charge of the economy, the economy has grown faster and it's also been fairer in the sense that everybody benefits. And when the Republicans have been in charge, the economy has grown slower and there's been greater inequality. And this is, you know, looking back over the last 80 years," he said. "So we've got a good story to tell. We've got a good track record, we've gotta tell it more effectively in this election."
In an effort to show he understands the economic struggles many people are facing, Obama spoke about growing up in hard times with a single mother, something he has taken to stressing more on the campaign trail in recent weeks.
"It was tough and it was pretty much tough all the way through my teenage years," he said. "Even though she was very proud and very independent, there were a couple of times when I was growing up where she accepted food stamps to make sure that we had enough food on the table."
When a woman asked how the senator was going to ensure the election was not "stolen." he alluded to past voting issues.
"Well, I tell you what: It helps in Ohio that we've got Democrats in charge of the machines!" he said, before going on to talk about the need for a non-partisan voting rights division at the Justice Department.