From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
RALEIGH, N.C. -- At a rally here, Obama mocked his rival for linking his plan to end tax breaks for wealthy Americans and provide more tax relief for the middle class to "socialism."
"Because [McCain] knows that his economic theories don't work, he's spending these last few days calling me every name in the book," Obama said, referring to McCain's "socialist" charge. "I don't know what's next. By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my, uh, peanut butter and jelly sandwich."
The McCain campaign, which has consistently sought to paint Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal in ads and on the stump, sent out its own quip in response. "No one cares what Barack Obama does with his toys, but Americans do care that he wants to raise taxes, add a trillion dollars in new spending and redistribute your hard-earned paycheck as he sees fit," said spokesman Tucker Bounds.
In his speech today, Obama also sharpened his argument that he better understands the concerns of the middle class by employing a tool -- both literally and rhetorically -- that John McCain's campaign has taken up on the trail in recent weeks: Joe the Plumber.
"Whether you are Susie the Student or Nancy the Nurse, Tina the Teacher, or Carl the Construction Worker -- if my opponent is elected, you will be worse off four years from now than you are today," he said. "Let's cut through the negative ads and the phony attacks. Under John McCain, the middle class will watch wealth get favored over work, jobs get shipped overseas, the health care costs and college costs continue to go through the roof. North Carolina, we know that just won't do. Not this time."
The visit to Wake County, which George Bush won in the last two elections, marked the Democratic nominee's third trip to this red state this month alone. His campaign has made a point of encouraging early voting in states where it is possible. North Carolina's Board of Elections data show registered Democrats in the state outnumbered registered Republicans 2,842,234 to 1,992,361 as of today. Campaign data shows Democrats here are voting early at a higher rate than Republicans and at a higher rate than they did in the last election.
Today, Obama encouraged the 28,000 people who turned out to hear him speak to join a walk to early voting sites that was scheduled to take place after the event. He also told people they could register and vote today. And he tried to make sure his supporters were not confused by the state's ballot.
"This is important: When you do vote, you have to vote in two steps -- one for president, and one for the rest of the ticket," he explained. "If you vote for a straight ticket, you have not voted in the presidential election. You need to vote for president separately."
Obama has a busy day ahead of him. He'll campaign with Joe Biden in Sunrise, FL this afternoon and later with Bill Clinton in Kissimmee, FL, near Orlando. His 30-minute infomercial and an interview with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart also air tonight.
During this speech, Obama invoked Bill Clinton in talking about the economy, reminding the audience that incomes rose under the former president and saying he would have similar economic policies, while McCain would follow Bush policies that caused incomes to fall.
A funny moment came when Obama made a mistake in referencing a popular 1970s sitcom as he spoke about Social Security. He cited "Sanford and Son," but then said "I'm coming, Weezy," a reference to "The Jeffersons."