September 9, 2008 / 12:46 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Obama and Palin battle over pet spending projects

(Adds Obama campaign comment on Palin, 12th paragraph)

By Deborah Charles

FLINT, Mich., Sept 8 (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama criticized Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Monday for portraying herself as a crusader against wasteful spending on pet local projects while aggressively pursuing the money for Alaska.

Obama said presidential rival John McCain had tried to revive his maverick image since choosing Palin, the Alaska governor, as his No. 2 -- but he said neither Republican was the maverick they portrayed themselves to be.

"Just about a month ago they were all saying 'oh it's experience, experience experience.' Then they chose Palin and they start talking about 'change, change, change,'" Obama said in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

"How do they have the nerve to say it when you've been supporting this current president, your party has been in power and you're not offering anything new?" he asked a cheering crowd of about 1,000 people.

Obama and McCain released dueling ads about who could deliver on their promises for change, with McCain claiming he and Palin were "the original mavericks" and Obama declaring McCain "is hardly a maverick."

The exchanges came as polls showed McCain gained a healthy bounce from his convention last week and his selection of Palin and now leads Obama or runs even with the Illinois senator in seven national polls taken since the convention ended.

The tight race seemed to fire up the rhetoric on both sides, as Obama and Palin battled over which candidate was a more credible fighter against earmarks -- the pet projects inserted in U.S. spending bills with little or no oversight.

Obama said Palin had been an enthusiastic supporter of such funding projects and rejected her claims to have opposed the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska -- a federal earmark that has come to symbolize the expenditures.

Independent fact-checking services have found Palin spoke favorably about the project while running for governor in 2006 and claimed to be an opponent only after Congress killed its funding.

"You can't just reinvent yourself. The American people aren't stupid," the Democrat said of Palin while campaigning in Flint, Michigan.

"When she was mayor she hired a Washington lobbyist to get earmarks, pork barrel spending. All the things that John McCain says is bad, she lobbied to get, and got a whole lot of it."

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe called Palin "a gold-medallist earmarker" who was "fairly recklessly misrepresenting her record and not being honest about ours."

Palin said at a rally in Missouri that Obama had requested nearly $1 billion in earmarks during his time in the U.S. Senate and she was "surprised that he would even raise the subject at all. He wouldn't want to go there."

Earmarks are often blamed for waste in Washington and have been a prime target of McCain.

"He battled Republicans and reformed Washington. She battled Republicans and reformed Alaska. They'll make history," McCain's new ad said.

"Now we have a team of mavericks," McCain said in Lee's Summit, Missouri. "America knows it's time for change and it's time for the right change." (Additional reporting by Jason Szep; editing by Chris Wilson)

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