On the eve of tonight's presidential debate, Democrat Barack Obama remained holed up in preparation at the Grove Park Inn, venturing out only to comment on the economy and pick up a take-out order of barbecued ribs.
Obama sought to keep the focus on the economy when he spoke to reporters shortly before noon outside the Grove Park.
“We woke up this morning and saw the markets are still in turmoil,” he said. “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.”
As a knot of tourists and hotel employees watched from a distance, 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” while chiding Republican John McCain's campaign for wanting to “turn the page” on the subject.
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“The notion that we would want to brush that aside and engage in the usual political shenanigans and smear tactics that have come to characterize too many political campaigns is not what the American people are looking for,” he said.
A reporter asked why his campaign was bringing up the “Keating 5” issue, but Obama took no questions and strode to a waiting Chevy suburban.
His campaign launched a Web site Monday called “Keating Economics – John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis” about McCain's role in the savings and loan scandal of nearly 20 years ago. McCain had long ago apologized for his role.
On Monday night, GOP spokesman Mario Diaz responded: “John McCain is the only candidate Americans can trust to right our economy and finally put a stop to the kind of insider-dealing that Senator Obama has turned a blind eye to for so long.”
Earlier in the day, Obama sped off in a motorcade to 12 Bones Smokehouse, a riverside barbecue joint decorated with a Cheerwine sign, bumper stickers and T-shirts that read, “Tender Butts, Sweet Racks.” He surprised a lunchtime crowd and ordered ribs, sweet teas, pork barbecue and collards for himself and his staff. He paid the $66 tab with cash and left a $15 tip.
While his order was prepared, Obama walked through the restaurant and greeted diners, including Maria Stanis of Asheville.
“I told him to kick butt,” she recalled. “He said, ‘You know we will.'”
After Obama picked up his order, his motorcade sped back to the Grove Park. There, Obama was believed to have been practicing. He was joined by aides including strategist David Axelrod and spokesman Robert Gibbs. Adviser Greg Craig was reported to play the role of McCain.