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Obama lauds McCain's SNL chuckles

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Barack Obama wants to see more laughter in politics. That's what he told some 60,000 people at a rally here Sunday during the first event of a three-stop swing through a battleground where polls show a tight race.

The senator praised his rival's appearance on Saturday Night Live during his usual riff on the need for a new kind of politics and for people to come together to solve problems. He said he had missed the live show, but had caught the Arizona senator on YouTube.

"We can argue and debate our positions passionately, but all of us have to summon the strength and grace -- and the humor -- to bridge our differences and unite us in common effort," he began. "John McCain was funny yesterday on Saturday Night Live, but that's part of what our politics should be about, being able to laugh at each other, but also laugh at ourselves, being able to understand that all of us black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American; Democrat ad Republican, young old, rich and poor, gay, straight, disabled, non disabled – all of us are in this together."

The rally outside the Ohio Statehouse was meant in part to rev up enthusiasm from supporters and encourage them to vote early. Obama began his remarks by calling on all those who had not voted to go down the street to a polling place today to vote.

John Kerry won Franklin County by more than 48,000 votes in 2004 and Obama was headed next to Cleveland in another Kerry county, where rocker Bruce Springsteen was set to perform. The senator ends his Ohio swing in Cincinnati, a county Bush won in 2004 where he opens to drive up turnout and to help reduce McCain's possible victory margin there.

Obama, who was accompanied by his wife and two daughters, told the audience that his faith in the American people had been vindicated by 21 months of campaigning, "regardless of what happens on Tuesday." On Friday, the McCain campaign had taken issue with his use of the word "vindicated" during a speech in Des Moines, suggesting that he would have felt differently had he lost the Iowa caucuses.

For the second time in a week, Obama flubbed a pop-culture reference in trying to tie McCain to the unpopular Bush.

"When it comes to the economy – when it comes to the central issue of this election – the plain truth is that John McCain has stood with this President every step of the way," he said. "He hasn't been a maverick, he's been a sidekick.He's like Kato to the Green Lantern. Ya'll remember that, those of you who are over a certain age."

Kato was the Green Hornet's sidekick, not the Green Lantern's.

Earlier this week in Raleigh, NC, Obama made a mistake in referencing a popular 1970's sitcom as he spoke about Social Security. He cited Sanford and Son, but then said "I'm coming, Weezy," a reference to The Jeffersons.