From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
CHESTER, Pa. -- A jean-clad Obama, speaking on a rainy, windy day outside Philadelphia, told the crowd McCain was "riding shotgun" with President Bush when it came to economic policies that have hurt working people.
The roughly 27-minute remarks, delivered to an estimated crowd of 9,000 people on a college campus in Delaware County, who cheered as they huddled under umbrellas, was largely a repeat of the speeches the senator gave yesterday in Canton, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, part of what his campaign has called his "closing argument." In it he continued to portray his rival as someone who is out of touch with middle class concerns and whose tax proposals would favor big companies and the wealthy.
"John McCain's ridden shotgun as George Bush has driven our economy toward a cliff, and now he wants to take the wheel and step on the gas," he said. "When it comes to the issue of taxes, saying that John McCain is running for a third Bush term isn't being fair to George Bush. He's proposing $300 billion in new tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations. That's something not even George Bush proposed."
He said even Bush had not proposed giving $700,000 in additional tax cuts to the average Fortune 500 CEO and he argued that only McCain had a plan that could eventually raise taxes on middle class families, citing the Republican's plan to tax the health care benefits that companies provide.
The McCain campaign's response to the speech sought to link Obama to congressional Democrats. One thing Bush and Congress have in common is low approval ratings and McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds wrote that Obama had not articulated any differences with Democrats in Congress.
"When Barack Obama's running mate cannot distinguish a single difference between their agenda and the priorities of the Democrats who have controlled Congress for two years -- that's not change, that's tax increases, defense cuts, and surrender on all fronts," Bounds wrote. "If voters want to fix Washington, they'll reject Barack Obama's rubber-stamped agenda for the most unpopular, big-spending Congress in American history."
Wall Street and Rain
Obama, who has been using populist language on the stump in recent weeks to cast himself as a champion for middle and working class Americans, also slammed Wall Street executives after reports that they stand to collect billions in bonuses this year despite the financial crisis.
"Despite the fact that businesses and families can't get credit and home values are failing- are falling and pensions are disappearing that ages are lower now than they've been in a decade," he said. "Wall Street bank executives are set to walk away with billions more in bonuses at the end of this year. Now, they might call that a bonus on Wall Street, but here in Pennsylvania, we call that an outrage -- and they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it."
When faced with bad weather, the Illinois senator often incorporates the rain or the cold into his speech and he did so several times today, remarking at the beginning that crowd had shown dedication by showing up in the cold and the rain.
"This is an unbelievable crowd for this kind of weather," he said. "Thank you so much. And I want you all to know that if we are, if we see this kind of dedication on Election Day there is no way we're not gonna bring change to America."
He said there was too much at stake to slow down or let up "whether it's rain or sleet or snow" and he closed by returning to the themes of hope and unity that shaped his campaign in the early days of the race, arguing that by coming together the country could emerge from the current economic crisis stronger than before.
"We've faced bad weather before," he said in closing. "We've faced clouds in the sky before, you know, but one of the things about the American people is that it's precisely when things are hard that we rise up. It's precisely during those times where it looks like we're giving up hope that we stand together. It's about rejecting fear and division for unity of purpose."
The stop in a county John Kerry won with 57 percent of the vote in 200, is likely to be the last stop the candidate makes in a blue state. Polls have shown him with a solid lead in Pennsylvania.