From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Obama rallied 100,000 people underneath St. Louis' Gateway Arch on Saturday, according to St. Louis police -- his biggest event in America to date -- and laid out the differences between himself and his rival on taxes and other issues.
Speaking underneath the landmark near the banks of the Mississippi River, Obama called taxes a values issue and said McCain's proposals valued wealth more than the work that creates it. He refuted McCain's criticism that his plan to provide tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans would amount to "welfare" for the 40 percent the Arizona senator says don't pay federal income taxes. Obama said he would only provide a tax break to people who are paying payroll taxes.
"John McCain is so out of touch with the struggles you're facing that he must be the first politician in history to call a tax cut for working people "welfare," he said. "Well, let me tell you, the only "welfare" in this campaign is John McCain's plan to give another $200 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest corporations in America -- including $4 billion in tax breaks to big oil companies that ran up record profits under George Bush. That's who John McCain's fighting for. I'm fighting for you."
The Obama campaign has consistently sought to paint the Illinois senator as a champion for working people and his rival as beholden to big companies, special interests and the rich. Their effort has been helped by massive spending on advertising in key areas.
The senator went on to deliver his usual stump speech, at one point calling McCain's health care plan "cockamamie", a term McCain used earlier this week to refer to Biden's proposal to divide Iraq and he repeated his campaign's argument that McCain wants to distract the American public with attacks in the final weeks of the campaign, making an indirect reference to the robocalls voters in several states have reported receiving that link Obama to 60's radical William Ayers.
"America is ready for change and yet even as we face the most serious economic crisis of our time; even as you are worried about keeping your jobs or paying your bills or staying in your homes, my opponent's campaign announced earlier this month that they want to quote "turn the page" on the discussion about our economy so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead," he said. "You guys have seen the ads, some of you are getting the phone calls. Sen. McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, "if we keep on talking about the economy, we're going to lose."
Obama was introduced by Missouri Attorney General -- and gubernatorial candidate -- Jay Nixon, who predicted more problems at polling places in Democratic areas on Election Day than Republican ones, and by Sen. Claire McCaskill. McCaskill responded to a comment McCain's running mate Sarah Palin made recently the seemed to question the patriotism of Americans in certain places.
"It doesn't matter whether you live in a small town in "Missouri or whether you're right here in St. Louis -- show America right now how we all are proud Americans!," she said, prompting chants of U-S-A. "We have reached a new low in American politics when someone dares to say that one part of America is more pro America than another part of America!"
She called McCain's campaign "petty" and said it was worried about the new voters who would be participating this election year.
"You have one campaign that is mean, angry, personal, petty, small bogus attacks," she said. "They're frozen into fear of the idea that we have millions of new people in America that want to participate. While one campaign is trying to distract America with small, petty, unfair personal attacks, the other campaign is focused like a laser on you."