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Obama, in N.C., keeps economy at center stage

By Jim Morrill
jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com

ASHEVILLE – Democrat Barack Obama sought to keep the focus on the economy today as he took a break from preparing for Tuesday's debate with Republican John McCain.

“Obviously we woke up this morning and saw the markets are still in turmoil,” he told reporters outside the Grove Park Inn. “The contagion is spreading to all parts of the globe.

“It is a reminder that the rescue package that was passed last week is not the end of our efforts to deal with the economy, it is only the beginning.”

Obama repeated his call for a new stimulus package and for the extension of unemployment benefits.

He promised to “keep on talking about the economy” even as he chided the McCain campaign for wanting to “turn the page.”

Obama did not take questions and strode to a waiting Chevy suburban as a reporter asked him why his campaign had brought up the “Keating 5” issue. The Obama campaign launched a Web site today called keatingeconomics.com. It's about McCain's role in the savings and loan scandal of nearly 20 years ago.

McCain had long ago apologized for his role.

Obama sped off in a motorcade to 12 Bones Smokehouse, a riverside barbecue restaurant whose walls are decorated with a Cheerwine sign and bumper stickers. He surprised a lunchtime crowd and ordered ribs, sweet tea, pork barbecue, collard and corn pudding for himself and his staff.

While his takeout order was prepared, he walked through the squat restaurant, congested with reporters and TV cameras, and greeted diners including Maria Stanis of Asheville.

“I told him to kick butt,” she said. “He said, ‘You know we will.”

Obama had no other public events scheduled today. He's scheduled to leave Asheville tomorrow for Nashville and the debate.

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