MESILLA, New Mexico (Reuters) - Republican presidential nominee John McCain, trailing in the polls, accused Democrat Barack Obama of already taking a “victory lap” by allowing an inaugural address to be drafted for him — a charge disputed by the Obama camp.
McCain, struggling to defend New Mexico and other Western states that in the past have mostly voted Republican from going to Obama on November 4, seized on a report that former President Bill Clinton’s one time chief of staff, John Podesta, had already written a draft inaugural address for Obama.
“What America needs now is somebody who will finish the race before starting a victory lap,” McCain told an enthusiastic crowd in a town square in southern New Mexico.
Obama holds a commanding lead in national opinion polls and is ahead in several key battleground states that McCain needs to win. At a rally in Reno, Nevada, Obama hammered McCain as little different than President George W. Bush
McCain compared himself to Harry Truman, the Democratic president who defied the odds to defeat Thomas Dewey in 1948, a victory that came so late that a Chicago newspaper had already printed headlines of Dewey’s victory.
“Well, my friends, when I pull this thing off I have a request for my opponent. I want him to save that manuscript of his inaugural address and donate it to the Smithsonian and put it right next to the Chicago paper that said ‘Dewey defeats Truman,” McCain said.
The Obama campaign said McCain’s charge was “completely false.” A campaign official said by email: “The ‘address’ is from a book John Podesta wrote before Obama was the nominee. It’s not a sample address for Obama. It’s a sample address he wrote for whoever became the nominee.”
Obama returned to active campaigning, after taking a break to visit his sick grandmother in Hawaii, with the Western states of Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado in his sights.
In Reno, Obama slammed McCain for saying government should ease its regulations on business and mocked his assertion that Bush’s economic policies had gotten “out of hand.”
“John McCain attacking George Bush for his out-of-hand economic policy is like (Vice President) Dick Cheney attacking George Bush for his go-it-alone foreign policy,” Obama told about 11,000 supporters at a chilly morning rally at the University of Nevada.
He said Bush did not seem offended, since he voted on Friday for McCain. “And that’s no surprise, because when it comes to the policies that matter for middle-class families, there’s not an inch of daylight between George Bush and John McCain,” he said.
McCain accused Obama of seeking to raise taxes on most Americans, particularly small businesses responsible for much of the hiring during a severe economic downturn in which hundreds of thousands of jobs have been shed.
Obama says his plan to tax Americans making more than $250,000 would cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans.
McCain said having Democrats in control of the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives under Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and the Senate under Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, would give Democrats unfettered power.
The Democrats are expected to increase their majorities in both houses of Congress on election day.
“Senator Obama’s tax increase would put even more people out of work,” McCain said. “We’ve seen this before in other countries. It doesn’t work. The answer to a strong economy is not higher taxes.
“But that is exactly what’s going to happen if the Democrats have total control of Washington. We can’t let that happen. Are you ready for Obama, Pelosi and Reid?” the Arizona senator said.
From New Mexico, McCain was to campaign in Iowa on Sunday. Bush won the state in 2004 but it appears so solidly in Obama’s camp that the Des Moines Register reported several Republican strategists wondered why McCain was wasting his time there.
McCain told the Albuquerque crowd that he relished being the underdog in the race.
“Ten days to go, we’re a few points down, and the pundits of course as they have four or five times have written us off,” McCain said. “And you know what, my friends? They forgot one thing. They forget to let you decide ... We love being the underdog and we’re going to win.”
Editing by Philip Barbara