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Candidates Step Up Campaigning After Final Debate

October 16, 2008 at 6:20 PM EDT
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With the last presidential debate behind them, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama and their running mates continued campaigning in several battleground states, focusing on the differences in their plans for the economy. Kwame Holman reports on the latest from the campaign trail.

JIM LEHRER: Now, a day after their final debate, the presidential candidates were back to campaigning. NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman reports.

KWAME HOLMAN: Republican nominee John McCain today took some of the same criticisms of Democrat Barack Obama he used last night into his first post-debate event in Downingtown, Pa.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): The real winner last night was Joe the plumber.

KWAME HOLMAN: That included an analysis of the Obama economic program and its effect on one Ohio plumber, mentioned frequently by both candidates a few hours before.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: You might recall I related last night, Senator Obama had an encounter with Joe, Joe the plumber, out in Ohio, another battleground state. And, you know, Joe the plumber said, “Look, I’ve been working all my life, 10, 12 hours. I want to buy the business that I’m in, but you’re going to raise my taxes.”

And you know what Senator Obama had to say to Joe? He wanted to spread his wealth around.

He wanted to spread his wealth around.

Now, what does that mean? He wants government to take Joe’s money and give it to somebody else, his hard-earned dollars. We’re not going to stand for that.

KWAME HOLMAN: And McCain also repeated his answer to Obama’s charge that a McCain presidency would be a lot like that of George W. Bush.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: As I mentioned last night to Senator Obama, I’m not George Bush. And if he wanted to run against George Bush, he should have run four years ago.

I’ll take us in a new direction.

My friends, the hour is late, our troubles are getting worse. Our enemies watch. We’ll have to act immediately, and we need that new direction now, and we have to fight, and that’s what America’s all about, and that’s what I’ll do for you.

Focus on common man

KWAME HOLMAN: This morning, Joe the plumber also came up in Bangor, Maine, where McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, compared him to another "Joe," Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-Alaska): You know, we want to cut taxes because we think like Joe or Jane the plumber thinks, OK? Our opponents want to raise taxes because they think like that other Joe, that six-term senator from Delaware whom I'm running against.

KWAME HOLMAN: "Joe the plumber" is Joe Wurzelbacher of Holland, Ohio, who challenged Obama about his tax plan at a campaign event in Toledo last weekend.

JOE WURZELBACHER: Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?

KWAME HOLMAN: After the presidential candidates invoked his name more than two dozen times last night, Wurzelbacher was thrust into instant celebrity, appearing on several network morning shows today.

Caught outside his home, Wurzelbacher was asked which candidate he supported.

JOE WURZELBACHER: At this point in time, I'm not telling anybody anything. You know, you guys want to ask me my opinions? Great. But who I'm voting for? You know, that's why it's a private booth.

KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, Obama today also retread some of the ground covered in the debate. In Londonderry, N.H., he stuck with his comparison of McCain and President Bush.

Obama focuses on economy

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-Ill.): Now, last night, Sen. McCain said that George Bush won't be on the ballot this November. He said, "I don't know why you're running against George Bush."

I said, "I'm not running against George Bush. I'm running against all those policies of George Bush that you support, Sen. McCain."

In three debates and over 20 months, John McCain still hasn't explained a single thing he would do differently from George Bush when it comes to the most important economic issues we face today, not one.

KWAME HOLMAN: And he criticized McCain for personal attacks during their face-to-face meeting.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Here's what Sen. McCain doesn't seem to understand. With the economy in turmoil, with the American dream at risk, the American people don't want to hear politicians attack each other. You want to hear about how we're going to attack the challenges facing the middle class each and every day.

Obama ahead in polls

KWAME HOLMAN: Though several national polls show Obama ahead, he said a previous experience in the Granite State taught him not to be complacent.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: For those who are getting a little cocky, I've got two words for you: New Hampshire. I learned right here, with the help of my great friend and supporter, Hillary Clinton, that you cannot let up -- you can't pay too much attention to polls. We've got to keep making our case for change. We've got to keep fighting for every single vote.

KWAME HOLMAN: It was a sentiment echoed by Obama's running mate, who addressed volunteers at a campaign office in Columbus, Ohio.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-Del.): Look at how many headquarters you have here in Ohio. Look what's going on, Mr. Chairman, in Virginia, in North Carolina, Montana, I mean, places we haven't been able to compete in some cases since 1964 in the Johnson landslide. It's because of the organization that you all put together.

KWAME HOLMAN: Biden will go up against McCain in his own way tonight. He'll appear on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, while John McCain is a guest on the "Late Show" with David letterman.