Clintons to start campaigning for Obama
Sunday 12 October 2008
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, already ahead in the polls, was expected to get a further boost Sunday when former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, make a joint campaign appearances on his behalf.
The nation's best known and most powerful Democrats for nearly two decades will be on the road for Obama, who vanquished Hillary Clinton last spring in a bitter primary contest. The Clintons apparently have put that behind them and will stump for Obama's election.
The Clintons are to appear with Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, at a rally Sunday in the working-class town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The location is meaningful because Biden was born in Scranton and lived there for several years as a child, while Hillary Clinton's father grew up in the town and is buried there. The former first couple later will follow separate itineraries, also campaigning for House and Senate candidates.
On Saturday, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain toned down his rhetoric against Obama, apparently concerned with angry sloganeering from supporters at some of his rallies — and criticism that he had gone too far.
Obama, in turn, made a slight nod to McCain as he campaigned in Philadelphia and asked voters to have faith in him as the next president.
Even as he criticized McCain's economic proposals, Obama acknowledged that the Republican nominee has begun to ask his supporters to temper their attacks on him.
"I appreciated his reminder that we can disagree while still being respectful of each other," Obama told thousands of supporters at the first of four outdoor rallies in Philadelphia. Police estimated he drew more than 60,000 people to the four events.
"Sen. McCain has served this country with honor," Obama said later. "He deserves our thanks for that."
McCain kept his speech at a rally in Davenport, Iowa, focused on the economy and his policies, a striking change from just days ago when his campaign redoubled its challenge to Obama over his association with a former 1960s radical. McCain also claimed that American voters did not really know Obama and his "radical" views.
The tone at McCain's and running mate Sarah Palin's events during the past week had been turning toward the sour as disappointed supporters see his presidential campaign lag against Obama.
Angry Republicans had shouted "terrorist" and "off with his head" at the mention of Obama's connections to former Weather Underground member William Ayers, whose group bombed federal buildings in protest of the Vietnam War when Obama was a child. The two had worked together on community projects in Chicago, and Obama has denounced Ayers' violent past.
On Friday during a town hall-style meeting in Lakeville, Minnesota, a supporter told McCain that he feared what would happen if Obama were elected. McCain drew boos when he defended his rival as a "decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."
McCain returned to that note of civility on Saturday as his quandary became clearer: He needed to excite his party's base without inciting them, challenge Obama while being an honorable opponent, and find a game-changing strategy for his faltering campaign without crossing the line.
When an anti-war protester interrupted him, McCain nervously watched what the crowd would do. The protester was hoisted on shoulders and McCain's supporters chanted "We want John."
"As people are trying to stay in their homes, keep their jobs and afford health care, is what they want for us, to yell at each other?" he asked. "No. They want us to sit down together, Republican and Democrat, to work through this terrible time of crisis."
In a statement issued Saturday, Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and veteran of the civil rights movement, charged that the negative tone of the Republican presidential campaign reminded him of the hateful atmosphere that segregationist Gov. George Wallace fostered in Alabama in the 1960s.
Lewis, who is black, accused McCain and Palin of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse."
McCain on Saturday called Lewis' remarks "shocking and beyond the pale."
Late Saturday, Lewis said he wasn't trying to directly compare McCain or Palin to Wallace.
"My statement was a reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to destructive behavior," he said.
The Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, also campaigned in Pennsylvania on Saturday. She attacked Obama on abortion at a rally in Johnstown, saying the Democratic candidate has "left behind even the middle ground on the issue of life."
Palin said she and McCain would be "defenders of the culture of life." She opposes abortion in all cases except where the pregnancy threatens the woman's life. McCain would also allow abortion in cases of rape or incest.
Palin said it was about time that Obama was "called" on his abortion views which she called "radical." Obama favors abortion rights.
Palin also dropped the ceremonial first ice hockey puck Saturday at the Philadelphia Flyers' home opener against the New York Rangers.
The self-described "hockey mom" heard a few boos when she walked onto the ice, but that soon turned to polite applause as she headed to center ice with Mike Richards of the Flyers and Scott Gomez — from Alaska — of the Rangers.
Palin waved to the crowd and smiled as she dropped the puck to applause and cheers.
"As a proud hockey mom and an avid NHL fan, I was thrilled to be here," Palin said. "I enjoyed joining the Philadelphia Flyers to drop the puck at tonight's game. I wish them the best of luck this season."
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