Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama brought his campaign to conservative-leaning eastern North Carolina on Sunday, warning people not to be “hoodwinked” by a series of Republican charges in the final weeks of the campaign.
Obama, the Illinois senator, said Republicans were assailing his character and leveling baseless charges of socialism in speeches, automated phone calls and campaign flyers.
“My opponent has made his choice,” Obama told an overflow crowd of more than 10,000 people.
“Senator McCain's campaign actually said a couple of weeks ago that they were going to launch a series of attacks on my character…,” Obama said. “I can take a few more weeks of John McCain's attacks,” Obama said. “But the American people can't take four more years of failed economic policies.”
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This was Obama's first general election foray into Eastern N.C., an area long partial to conservative white Democrats. He made a surprise stop at a Dunn hotel and picked up lunch at a barbecue restaurant in Fayetteville.
Most people greeted him warmly. But not Diane Fanning, 54, who yelled, “Boo, socialist! Socialist! Get out of here.”
In recent days, Republicans have worked intensely to reclaim North Carolina, which has voted Republican in presidential elections since 1976. McCain has been in the state twice in the last week; his vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, also stopped by.
“I think it's very competitive, and very close,” David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, said in an interview. “With apologies to New York,” Axelrod said, “if we can make it here we can make it anywhere.”
Cumberland County might be considered McCain country, given Fort Bragg and McCain's heroism as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
But there were veterans at the Obama rally, including Frederica Garvin, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve who served in Iraq during the current conflict and in Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War.
Garvin, a 49-year-old Fayetteville resident, started out at 4:30 a.m. to make sure of a good seat for the 1:30 p.m. rally.
“What are we fighting for now?” said Garvin, a Democrat. “All these young kids getting killed over there for no reason.”
Obama's speech focused on the economy rather than on foreign affairs.
“The question is not are you better off than you were four years ago,” Obama said. “Are you better off than you were four weeks ago?”
He said both McCain and Palin had accused him of socialism.
“John McCain thinks giving folks a tax break is socialism,” Obama said. “I call it opportunity.”