John McCain tried Friday to reinvigorate his campaign in Colorado, a state he badly needs to win, barnstorming alongside local football legend John Elway and criticizing Barack Obama as a dangerous spread-the-wealth advocate and untested potential commander in chief.
The Republican presidential nominee had the campaign stage to himself Friday, as Obama visited his ailing grandmother in Hawaii.
At Denver's National Western Arena, McCain found a raucous audience of about 1,200 people, and occasionally loud protesters.
Supporters let out lusty boos when the Arizona senator told them that Obama, the Democratic nominee, “wants to spread the wealth around.”
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They gave one of their biggest cheers when McCain said, “Sen. Obama may say he's trying to soak the rich, but it's the middle class who are going to get put through the wringer, because a lot of his promised tax increase misses the target.”
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said he welcomed McCain's emphasis on tax policy.
“This is not a new argument. We have been dealing with tax attacks for months,” Plouffe said. “People believe Sen. Obama will cut taxes for people like them. We're happy to continue this debate.”
Plouffe maintained that McCain's presence in a state such as Colorado illustrates how the Obama campaign “is in strong shape.” McCain's lieutenants countered that voters are still making up their minds.
Tearing into Obama – who leads in Colorado by an average of 5.4 percentage points, according to poll data compiled by RealClearPolitics, a nonpartisan Web site – has become a key McCain strategy in the campaign's closing days.
Colorado is crucial to McCain, because it's been reliably Republican in recent presidential elections. President Bush beat Democrat John Kerry here by 4.6 percentage points four years ago, and he walloped Democrat Al Gore by 8 points in 2000. In 1996, Republican nominee Bob Dole beat Bill Clinton here.
Barack Obama, who plans to resume campaigning Saturday in Nevada, picked up the endorsement of another prominent Republican, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld.
He joins other Republicans who have backed Obama recently, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan and former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson.