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Obama challenges 'populist' McCain

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Hours before his rival's call to postpone Friday's presidential debate in light of bailout rancor on Capitol Hill, Obama called McCain's populist bona fides into question at a rally in the Tampa Bay, FL area.

John McCain decided in the last few days to begin talking tough on CEO pay, Obama told a crowd of about 11,000 people filling a baseball stadium, going on to challenge the Arizona Republican's stance on tax cuts and so-called "golden parachutes" for corporate executives.

"He [McCain] is suddenly a hard-charging populist," Obama said.  "That's all well and good, but I sure wish he was talking the same way over a year ago, when I introduced a bill that would've helped stop some of the multi-million-dollar bonus packages that CEOs grab on their way out the door, because he opposed that idea."

The senator said McCain had not joined him when he "blew the whistle" on the CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who tried to walk away with "golden parachutes" when they were fired.

"I sure wish he felt the same outrage about CEO pay when his top economic advisor – who he calls a 'role model' – walked away with a $42 million paypackage after being fired from Hewlett Packard," Obama went on, repeating a new line of attack he's begun to use in recent days.  "I sure wish he would change his current plan to give the average Fortune 500 CEO a $700- a $700,000 tax cut at a time when millions of Americans are struggling to pay their bills."

Obama's campaign has increasingly tried to cast him as a man of the people who will be a champion for the middle class class and McCain as a man who is out of touch and beholden to lobbyists, corporate interests and the wealthy.