From NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Two days after McCain formally accepted the nomination of his party, rival Obama accused his opponent of falsely portraying himself as a change agent despite championing the party agenda of the ruling GOP for the last eight years and tapping for the vice presidency Gov. Sarah Palin, who Obama says has taken earmarks "when it's convenient."
"Don't be fooled," a particularly punchy Obama told a crowd this morning at a town hall meeting in Terre Haute, Ind. "These are the folks who have been in charge. John McCain's party, with the help of John McCain, has been in charge."
Criticizing new VP candidate Sarah Palin, Obama said she poses as an anti-big-spending maverick despite having pulled in pork-barrel projects into her home state. Calling Palin "a skillful politician," Obama charged the Alaska governor with taking earmarks "when it is convenient" but decrying them now that she is headlining McCain's agenda.
"Words mean something!" Obama said of Palin's reputation as an anti-earmark champion. "You can't just make stuff up."
McCain-Palin spokesman Tucker Bounds responded to Obama's criticism of the Alaksa governor by alleging that Obama has a penchant for pork himself.
"Barack Obama has requested the equivalent of $1 million in new pork-barrel spending for every working day he's been in the U.S. Senate, while John McCain has never once asked for an earmark, and Gov. Palin has vetoed hundreds of millions in government spending including killing the infamous 'Bridge to Nowhere'," Bounds wrote in an email response. "Just like so many other issues Barack Obama is all talk, has no record to back it up and isn't ready to make change."
During his town hall appearance in a hay-strewn show barn at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds, the Democratic nominee ridiculed Republicans as hypocrites whose proposal for "change" excludes major reforms of the nation's most problematic policies .
"Maybe what they're saying is, 'Watch out George Bush,'" Obama speculated sarcastically, "except for economic policies, and tax policies, and energy policies, and health care policies, and education policies, and Karl Rove style politics. Except for all that, we're really going to bring change to Washington! We're really going to shake things up!"
Mocking Republicans' appeal to end partisan rancor, Obama posed the tongue-in-cheek question to McCain's party: "Did you pay attention to the last two days of your convention? I mean, what, were you not, were you not watching? Did they not get the memo?"
Obama also skewered McCain, who has been criticized for employing former lobbyists like campaign manager Rick Davis and advisor Charlie Black, for McCain's claim that he will cleanse K Street's influence inside the Beltway.
"Is he going to tell the folks who are running his campaign, who are the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington?" Obama asked of McCain with mock incredulity. "Who's he going to tell that change is coming?"
The Illinois senator was introduced by Terre Haute native and one-time-veep-contender Evan Bayh, who led a refrain of "His cause is your cause," in support of the Democratic nominee.
Bayh prepped the crowd of about 800 Indianans for Obama's spirited riff against McCain, implying that the one-time maverick sold his soul during the Republican primary.
"The price that John McCain had to pay to win his party's nomination was to embrace the Bush agenda," Bayh claimed. "And that is a price that America can no longer afford to pay."