Obama takes on economy, McCain in Grand Junction | VailDaily.com

Obama takes on economy, McCain in Grand Junction

Emily Anderson
Grand Junction correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentBarack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate, spoke to thousands of supporters during Monday's visit to Grand Junction before continuing on to Pueblo.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama added concerns about rebuilding Wall Street and jabs at Republican opponent John McCain to his standard stump speech during an appearance Monday at Cross Orchards Living History Farm in Grand Junction.

Obama said he woke up to the “troubling news” that investment company Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy and Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch & Co. over the weekend. Dow Jones industrials fell 500 points Monday. Obama said he spent most of Monday morning discussing the “serious, serious situation” with his economic advisors and believes in changing bankruptcy policies to secure pensions.

“We are going to have a lot of rebuilding to do,” he said.

Obama said he wants to make this election about important issues like the economy and steer away from “swift boat” tactics.

“We cannot afford to let them make another election about small things,” he said.

He said he has been intrigued by the similarities to his message of change in recent McCain advertisements.

“Now suddenly he’s about change, too. He’s even started using some of my lines,” Obama said. The McCain-Palin ticket launched an advertisement Monday that said the pair would bring “change that we need.” Obama campaign signs in the audience read “change we need,” a slogan Obama has used for months.

“Instead of borrowing some of my lines, he needs to borrow some of our ideas,” Obama said.

With McCain as president, Obama said the country would experience the same policies it’s seen for the past eight years, plus tax breaks for couples earning more than $250,000 a year and taxes on employer-provided health care benefits for the first time in U.S. history. McCain said in May his plan to eliminate a tax break for people with employer-provided health insurance may not equal the amount he’d provide instead with a government tax credit.

An Obama presidency, the Democratic candidate said, would bring better-paid teachers, an end to the war in Iraq and tax rates 20 percent lower than the level President Ronald Reagan set for the typical middle-class family, as well as an end to lobbyists getting jobs in the White House. Obama admonished McCain for employing seven lobbyists on his advisory staff.

“If you think those lobbyists are working day and night for John McCain just to put themselves out of business, well, I’ve got a bridge to sell you up in Alaska,” Obama said, referencing the Alaskan “bridge to nowhere” that McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, once supported.

Gov. Bill Ritter and Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) described Obama in opening remarks as the right candidate for Colorado, energy policy and rural America.

“Barack Obama will get us to energy independence in 10 years – that’s change we can believe in,” Salazar said.

He and Ritter agreed with Obama’s decision, which he reiterated Monday, to tap into natural gas reserves if elected president.

“I think it’s a good idea. We’re doing our part here in Colorado with over 20,000 natural gas wells already in production. He understands it has to be part of the solution, but he also understands that technology and renewable fuels also have to be part of that solution,” Salazar said.

“This is not an in-lieu-of opportunity for us in Colorado, this is an opportunity for us to build a new economy,” Ritter said. “Natural gas will be around for decades to come, but we should be thinking about every way we can build out our energy future, and that includes wind and solar.”

While Ritter and Salazar told the crowd they were confident Obama would win Colorado and the election, Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown wasn’t so sure.

“I think they’ll err on the side of caution and go with the devil they know rather than the devil they don’t know. Experience counts,” Brown said.

Brown, a registered Republican who attended Monday’s event, said Obama “makes a great speech,” but he will vote for McCain. McCain will have to woo conservatives and independents to his side to win the election, even in Republican and unaffiliated voter-heavy Mesa County, Brown said. He and his wife voted for McCain at their precinct caucus in February, but the other 68 people in the room went for more conservative Gov. Mitt Romney.

“Lots of Republicans had to hold their nose and go for McCain” later in the year, Brown said.

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, and Democratic Mesa County commissioner candidate Dan Robinson also spoke before Obama arrived. Curry held up a T-shirt that read “I’m a hockey mom for Obama,” a Palin-directed slogan that received loud roars from the audience. Robinson focused on the rareness of a presidential candidate visiting Grand Junction.

“How long have we waited for this day?” Robinson shouted with excitement.

Republican candidate Bob Dole visited Grand Junction in 1996. The last time a Democratic challenger came to the area was when Harry Truman visited in 1948.

Reach Emily Anderson at eanderson@gjfreepress.com.

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