Obama accuses McCain of ‘willfull ignorance’

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2008

LAKE WORTH, Fla. (AP) — Democrat Barack Obama said Tuesday that Republican John McCain is offering ‘‘willful ignorance, wishful thinking, outdated ideology’’ for an economy in crisis, seeking to capitalize on the main issue that is propelling him forward in the race for the White House.

‘‘While President Bush and Sen. McCain were ready to move heaven and earth to address the crisis on Wall Street, the president has failed so far to address the crisis on Main Street, and Sen. McCain has failed to fully acknowledge it,’’ Obama said at a jobs summit his campaign staged in economically precarious and politically significant Florida.

Obama said McCain’s response to the limping economy doesn’t offer enough to people worried about keeping their jobs, their homes and their lifestyles.

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‘‘Instead of commonsense solutions, month after month, they’ve offered little more than willful ignorance, wishful thinking, outdated ideology,’’ he said in a steamy gymnasium at Palm Beach Community College, where 1,700 people sat cheering in the stands and at least that many if not more gathered outside to cheer Obama’s appearance.

The McCain campaign shot back that Obama’s stimulus plan, which includes sending billions to state and local governments to keep projects and health spending afloat, isn’t the right recipe.

‘‘When Americans are hurting, Barack Obama’s plan to take more and more money from pocketbooks and hand it over to mismanaged government budgets is not the solution — it’s the problem,’’ said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. ‘‘Barack Obama is simply offering more of the same.’’

Obama flew in the Democratic governors of several other states, besides Florida, that went Republican four years ago and for which the Democratic presidential nominee is making a serious play this time around. During the round-table discussion, Obama hammered home the message that he has the best economic plan — and all the participants agreed.

Along the long table talking economic policy for 95 minutes were the governors of Michigan, Ohio, New Mexico and Colorado, as well as Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, an Obama campaign adviser, and local business owners.

With the current economic crisis creating favorable conditions for Democrats, Obama has focused his final-stretch message almost entirely on that topic — and almost entirely on traditionally Republican turf. The subject of the battered economy, and battered households, is particularly timely in Florida, which has unemployment above the national average and one of the worst foreclosure rates.

Florida, once solidly in McCain’s corner, now is a tossup. In Colorado and Ohio, McCain is believed to be down, but within or close to the margin of error in polls. Obama appears to have a comfortable lead in New Mexico.

And in Michigan, the only state of the four represented at Obama’s event to go Democratic last time, McCain recently withdrew all staff and ads.

Obama is on a two-day swing through Florida, finishing Tuesday evening with a large rally with his wife, Michelle, in Miami.

In between the two main events of the day, Obama made several impromptu stops, at a Fort Lauderdale duplex that houses a barber shop on one side and one his campaign offices on the other, and then at a deli a few miles away.

At the duplex, Obama’s message was the same on both sides of the building: Vote, and do it early, as Florida law allows, between Monday and Nov. 1. ‘‘Anybody who comes in and sits in that chair, you tell ’em,’’ he told the barber at the Neighborhood Unisex Salon. ‘‘No excuses.’’

After shaking hands with campaign volunteers next door, he gave the troops a pep talk that earned loud cheers. ‘‘We’ve got two more weeks. We cannot let up one bit.’’

Obama also campaigned across Florida the day before, holding a solo rally in Tampa and a joint event with former Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in Orlando that was attended by more than 50,000 people.

The Democratic presidential candidate is to head to more GOP states, Virginia and Indiana, on Wednesday and Thursday.

After a morning rally Thursday in Indianapolis, Obama planned to leave the campaign trail and fly to Hawaii to visit his gravely ill, 85-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, a central figure in her grandson’s life. She helped raise him.

He is to resume campaigning Saturday in an undetermined location in the West, mostly likely another state that went for Bush in 2004, such as Nevada, aides said.

For Election Night, Obama planned an event at Chicago’s Grant Park on Hutchinson Field, his campaign announced Tuesday.