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McCain Talks Iraq in N.M. While Obama Tours Va.

August 20, 2008 at 6:20 PM EDT
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The presidential hopefuls hit the campaign trial Wednesday, with GOP Sen. John McCain visiting the toss-up state of New Mexico and Sen. Barack Obama touring the battleground state of Virginia. Kwame Holman recaps the latest campaign news.

KWAME HOLMAN: Democrat Barack Obama has made clear he aims to turn typically red Virginia blue in the presidential election. Today, he campaigned with a Democrat who has successfully run for statewide office there, former governor and current Senate candidate Mark Warner.

FORMER GOV. MARK WARNER (D), Virginia: The next president of the United States, Senator Barack Obama.

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama chose to focus his remarks on the economic struggles facing many Americans.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: What’s happened now is that not only is it harder to save and is it harder to retire, not only are jobs more insecure and people have lost their pensions, as well as their savings, but most importantly, people aren’t sure whether that essential part of the American dream, the idea that if we work hard and we sacrifice the next generation’s going to be a little bit better off than we were, people aren’t sure whether that still holds true.

People feel like the American dream is slipping away. Now, that’s what’s at stake in this election.

We can’t keep on going in the same direction that we’ve been going in. We have to fundamentally change how America does business.

And if you doubt that, if you doubt that, let me just ask you a question. How many of you are better off now than you were when George Bush first took office? Go ahead and raise your hands. How many are worse off than you were since George Bush took office?

That describes the reality of our politics over the last eight years. And that’s the reason I’m running for president of the United States of America, because I want to make sure that the next generation here in Martinsville, here in Henry County, here in Virginia, here in the United States of America has the jobs and the opportunity of the future. That’s what we’re fighting for.

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama said Republican John McCain and his party were using personal attacks on him to compensate for a lack of policy ideas.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Politicians, they get up and make a lot of promises, and then things don’t change, and so people become cynical. And, frankly, that’s sort of what the Republicans and my opponent are counting on, the cynicism of voters.

You notice they don’t spend a lot of time defending their record, because they can’t. I mean, John McCain said he thought we had made great progress economically over the last eight years under George Bush. I don’t know who he’s talking to, but this is what he said.

They’re not going to argue the issues, because the American people understand that things haven’t been working. All you’ve got to do is open up the newspaper or go down to the diner or the VFW hall, and talk to your neighbors, and talk to your friends, and you know things aren’t going well. You know things have to change. And the Republicans know it, too.

But here’s the thing. Even though they don’t know how to govern, they’re very good at running elections. And so what they’re going to do is they’re going to try to attack me and make you worried about me.

And they’ll say, “Well, he’s young, and he’s got a funny name and, you know, he’s not patriotic.” That’s what they’re going to do.

And because people I think feel betrayed by government so much for so long, it’s easy to believe bad things about politicians. And it’s easy to just say, “Well, you know, a plague on both their houses. Nobody is going to do anything to bring about change.”

You know, that’s — we’ve seen this game before. We’ve seen it 4 years ago, 8 years ago, 12 years ago, 16 years ago, 20 years ago. We have seen this movie before. So what’s going to be different this time? What’s going to be different is you.

McCain spoke from New Mexico

KWAME HOLMAN: John McCain, meanwhile, campaigned in another potential toss-up state, New Mexico. Yesterday, Obama said McCain had questioned his patriotism, a charge McCain denied today in Las Cruces.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: No rational observer could go to Iraq and see what we've succeeded in doing in the last two years and say that the surge hasn't succeeded. That's what this is all about, my friends. This is what it's all about, securing our nation. Even in retrospect, with all we know today, he'd still choose the path of retreat and failure.

You know, yesterday, Senator Obama got a little testy on this issue. He said I'm questioning his patriotism. Let me be very clear: I am not questioning his patriotism. I am questioning his judgment. I am questioning his judgment.

Senator Obama has made it clear he values withdrawal from Iraq above victory in Iraq. Even today, with victory in sight, over and over again, he's advocated unconditional withdrawal, regardless of the facts on the ground. And he voted against funding for troops in combat after he said it would be wrong to do so.

He's made these decisions not because he doesn't love America, but because he doesn't think it matters whether America wins or loses. I'm going to end this war, and I'm going to bring them home, and they'll come home with honor in victory, leaving Iraq secured as a democratic ally in the Arab heartland. That's what I'm going to do.

So beyond all the commercials and all the words and the campaign back-and-forth, Senator Obama's agenda can be summarized as this: Government is too big; he wants to grow it. Taxes are too high; he wants to raise them. Congress spends too much, and he proposes more. We need more energy, and he's against producing it. We're finally -- we're finally winning in Iraq, and he wants to forfeit.

The bottom line is that Senator Obama's words, for all their eloquence and passion, doesn't mean all that much. And that's the problem with Washington. It's not just the Bush administration, and it's not just the Democratic Congress. It's that everybody in Washington says whatever it takes to get elected or to score the political point of the day.

So I want to assure you we don't need another politician in Washington who puts self-interest and political expediency ahead of problem-solving. We want to start putting our country first and come together to keep American families safe and help them realize their dreams for a better life.

So with that, I'd like -- I'd like to stop by just saying, again, when we have an energy crisis and you're paying $3.75, $4 a gallon for gas, whatever it is, people who are the lowest income Americans are driving the furthest in the oldest automobiles, bearing a crushing blow. What does Congress do? Five-week vacation. Five-week vacation.

My friends, if I were president of the United States -- and when I'm president of the United States -- I'll call them back to town and tell them to go to work and solve America's energy problems and start going to work for America. And do it...

And do it in a bipartisan fashion. Can't we work together for the good of America? Can't we reach our hand out to each other and work together?

My whole life, my friends, I've put my country first. I want to assure you, as president of the United States, I will put my country first.

KWAME HOLMAN: McCain's campaign has not announced where their candidate will be tomorrow. Obama will continue to stump in Virginia.