CHILLICOTHE, Ohio Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama on Friday sought to reach out to white, working class voters in this center of Appalachian Ohio with his populist promises to rescue the economy, boost small business, and provide help with college tuition and health care even as he accused his opponents of sowing division instead of tackling the economic crisis.
Mr. Obama didn t directly mention the attacks coming from the campaign of Republican nominee Sen. John McCain about his relationship with 1960s radical Bill Ayers.
"It s easy to rile up a crowd by stoking anger and division. But that s not what we need right now in the United States. The American people aren t looking for someone who can divide this country they re looking for someone who can lead this country," Mr. Obama said.
Thursday in Wilmington, Ohio, GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin questioned Mr. Obama s judgment and truthfulness over the evolving details of his connections with Mr. Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground organization responsible for a series of bombings against the U.S. Capitol, Pentagon, and other domestic targets more than 30 years ago.
Now a University of Illinois professor, Mr. Ayers has served on two community boards in Chicago with Mr. Obama and hosted a meeting in his home for Mr. Obama early in his Chicago political career.
"I know my opponent is worried about his campaign. But that s not what I m concerned about. I m thinking about the Americans losing their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings," Mr. Obama asserted.
Hundreds of people gathered on the main street in front of the Ross County Courthouse. The scene with the American flags, and red, white, and blue bunting, politicians on the podium, under clear sunny skies overhead could have been a postcard.
Mr. Obama unveiled what he called a "small business rescue plan" to offer disaster-style loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration and to offer tax incentives immediately to encourage new investments.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a native of southern Ohio who represented the area in Congress, urged listeners not to be deceived in the heat of the presidential campaign.
"Unfortunately, there are those who have tried to spread untruths about Barack Obama. Barack Obama is a good, Christian family man. Now why do I share those two things with you this morning? Because the McCain-Palin campaign and unfortunately some of their followers would want you to be afraid of Barack Obama," Mr. Strickland said.
Mr. Strickland spent more time reassuring sportsmen and hunters that Mr. Obama supports their 2nd Amendment right to own weapons.
Mandy MacLachlan, 30, of Chillicothe, said she wants Mr. Obama elected to "make sure my kids have health insurance and my grandkids have health insurance. I don t want the rich to keep getting richer with no concern for the middle class."
Ms. MacLachlan said she believes the reason Ross County backed Republican President Bush four years ago is because of the negative ads that ran against Democrat John Kerry.
Construction foreman Bruce Bennett, 52, of Pickaway County, claimed, "The Republicans killed the middle class. They re strangling us real hard. If you want to finish them off, just vote Republican."
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