CANTON, Ohio - Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama called for a renewed sense of personal responsibility yesterday as he kicked off the final week of the 2008 campaign for the White House in battleground Ohio.
"Each of us has a responsibility to work hard and look after ourselves and our families, and each of us has a responsibility to look after each other, our fellow citizens," Mr. Obama told about 5,000 in the Canton Civic Center. "That's what's been lost these last eight years - our sense of common purpose, of higher purpose. And that's what we need to restore right now."
He said government can do its part in leading the way on energy interdependence and helping to provide "more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But each of us must do our part to make our homes and our businesses more efficient," he said.
"All of us must do our part as parents to turn off the TV set, and read to our children, and take responsibility for providing the love and guidance they need."
He also made remarks that sounded like an explanation of the "spread the wealth around" phrase that supplied his Republican opponents John McCain and Sarah Palin the last couple weeks with ammunition to accuse him of an intent to "redistribute wealth."
Mr. Obama said government's role is to "ensure a shot at success not only for those with money and power and influence, but for every single American willing to work.
"That's how we make sure businesses have customers that can afford their products and services. That's how we've always grown the American economy - from the bottom up. John McCain calls this socialism. I call it opportunity, and there is nothing more American than that," the Illinois senator said at a campaign rally in Canton Civic Center.
In his now-famous encounter Oct. 12 in Springfield Township with local plumber Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher, Mr. Obama said his plan to raise income taxes on families earning more than $250,000 and offer tax breaks to 95 percent of Americans would "spread the wealth around."
Yesterday's speech was billed as Mr. Obama's "closing argument," although he is not expected to let up until Nov. 4.
Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain both campaigned in Ohio yesterday, and both campaigns are expected to return to the state before the election.
Mr. Obama told his cheering supporters in Canton that Mr. McCain is "spending these last weeks calling me every name in the book. Because that's how you play the game in Washington. If you can't beat your opponent's ideas, you distort those ideas and maybe make some up."
Polls show Mr. Obama narrowly ahead of Mr. McCain in Ohio, which was one of the states that Mr. Obama lost to Sen. Hillary Clinton during the primary election.
Ohio's 20 electoral votes are critical to both candidates, but more so to Mr. McCain, according to history. No Republican has ever been elected president without winning in Ohio. President John Kennedy, in 1960, was the last Democrat elected without carrying the state.
Mr. Obama claimed that Mr. McCain "still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing he'd do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy."
The McCain campaign disagreed.
Spokesman Tucker Bounds cited Mr. McCain's plan to use part of a $700 billion financial bailout package to buy up troubled mortgages and negotiate easier loan terms with the homeowners. He said both President Bush and Senator Obama opposed that plan, the Associated Press reported.
"Barack Obama's 'closing argument' is the same old argument in favor of job-killing tax increases and massive new spending. It's an argument for closing down opportunity while closing down our economy," Mr. Bounds said in the prepared statement.
Mr. Obama touted his health care and college tuition proposals, and vowed to end the Iraq war.
One attendee, Darra Coleman, 58, said, "I haven't been this excited about an election since the Kennedys. Just like he says, it's time for a change. How can we possibly go wrong?"
She said she's been volunteering for Mr. Obama for four months and finds that "when I make phone calls I get people that are still undecided."
Allen Schulman, president of the 12-person, all-Democratic Canton City Council, said the Bush Administration "has been starving the urban centers in the United States, and that would go for Toledo, any major urban area in the country.
"We're very much looking for an Obama administration," Mr. Schulman said.
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