(AFP) – Oct 23, 2008
SARASOTA, Florida (AFP) — John McCain cast himself as the defender of small business and American values Thursday as he struggled to overtake rival Barack Obama's lead in the polls, a scant 12 days before the US presidential election.
For the second week since Obama's chance encounter with an Ohio plumber worried about the Democrat's tax plans, the Republican senator hammered at his rival's assertion that everyone is better off if you "spread the wealth around."
"Senator Obama says he's trying to soak the rich but it's the middle class who are going to get wet," McCain told a rally in Sarasota, Florida.
"The answer to a slowing economy is not higher taxes, but that's exactly what will happen when the Democrats have total control of Congress," McCain said, adding "I'm not going to let that happen."
McCain said Obama's tax plans and health care policy will "kill jobs" and noted that small businesses had managed to create around 300,000 jobs this year, even as the broader economy lost more than 700,000 jobs.
"In this country we believe in spreading opportunity for those whose create jobs and those who need them."
And he slammed Obama's attempt to clarify his tax policy in the face of McCain's attacks, telling the raucous crowd, "he'll say anything to get elected."
McCain spent the day meeting with small business owners at a lumber yard, dental office, Puerto Rican restaurant and a fruit stand, as he embarked on a "Joe the Plumber" bus tour across the battleground state of Florida.
The now-famous Joe Wurzelbacher of Holland, Ohio has not yet appeared with McCain, but the campaign is holding him up as a symbol of the hopes and dreams of all Americans who own a business or, like Joe, dream of doing so one day.
"We're talking to small business people all over the state of Florida and all over America and we've got to restore their hopes and dreams for America because that's the basis of our economy," he said after he had lunch with Hispanic entrepreneurs in Orlando.
"My commitment to the small business owners here is I will not feel the need to 'spread their wealth around.' I want them to keep their wealth and create jobs."
McCain said he was "confident" he could turn the economy around with his plan to cut taxes, decrease spending, invest in alternative energy and prop up the housing market by buying up bad mortgages.
"We need to win on November 4 and we're going to win Florida and bring real change to Washington DC," he told a rally in an Ormond Beach lumber yard.
A new sheaf of opinion polls in battleground states by Quinnipiac University suggested the gap is narrowing between Obama and McCain, although Obama still enjoys the lead.
Obama led his Republican rival in Florida by 49 to 44 percent, compared to a 51-43 percent lead in the last survey on October 1, and in Pennsylvania by 53-40 percent, compared to 54-39 percent previously.
McCain lost ground in Ohio -- often the decisive state in presidential elections -- where Obama leads 52-38 percent, expanding his lead from 50-42 percent at the beginning of the month.
No candidate has been elected president since 1960 without taking two of these three states in the US electoral college.
"To overcome Senator Obama's lead in Ohio, Senator McCain would have to get virtually every voter who remains undecided plus almost all of the Obama supporters who said they still might change their minds," said Quinnipiac's assistant director of polling Peter Brown.
The McCain campaign dismissed such bleak assessments.
"We're aware we're behind but we're in better shape than some of the public polls," senior advisor Mark Salter told AFP. "This is definitely a winnable race."
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