Newly minted presidential rivals Barack Obama and John McCain began the final stretch of their campaign, with Obama seizing on the country’s surging unemployment as evidence that Republicans must be driven from the White House.
Campaigning on Friday in Pennsylvania, the Democrat who would be the US’ first black president derided McCain for a nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, which Obama said did little to resonate with a country grappling with a mortgage crisis, high gasoline prices and a litany of credit woes.
On a day when the US government said the jobless rate hit a surprising 6.1 percent last month, Obama said Republicans were woefully out of touch with the plight of the US working class.
“If you watched the Republican National Convention over the last three days, you wouldn’t know that we have the highest unemployment in five years because they didn’t say a thing about what is going on with the middle class,” Obama told workers at a specialty glass factory.
The economy has factored large for months in the US presidential race, mostly eclipsing the Iraq War in the minds of voters. Both candidates have repeatedly seized on the issue to win over crucial working class voters and others in battleground states like Pennsylvania.
McCain, campaigning with vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin, told supporters in Wisconsin that the sagging economy had squeezed everyone in the country.
“My friends, a little straight talk, a little straight talk,” McCain said. “These are tough times. Today the jobs report is another reminder these are tough times.”
He did not, however, say how he would fix the economy.
The candidates were bearing down for the last weeks of campaigning up to the Nov. 4 election, after the Republicans ended their convention in Minnesota on Thursday, a week after the Democrats convened in Colorado.
Obama, meanwhile has shifted his campaign strategy to concentrate on key states rather than compete in all 50 states as he once pledged. He still plans to push into traditionally Republican and rural areas in swing states such as Ohio, but would likely skip undeniably Republican states such as Idaho.
Obama made a beeline for the industrial upper Midwest when he left the Democratic National Convention last week. With a swing through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, Obama signaled the importance of this region to his campaign.