Nation & World

As GOP's Palin campaigns, Obama ad calls her a distraction

WASHINGTON, Pa. — Republican John McCain showed off his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in this key battleground state Saturday as Democratic rival Barack Obama's campaign aired a new TV ad urging voters not be distracted by McCain putting a woman on the GOP ticket.

It wasn't Denver's 75,000-seat Invesco Field at Mile High, but the Republican ticket filled the stands and infield of Southwestern Pennsylvania's 3,200-seat Consol Energy Park — home of independent baseball's Washington Wild Things — for McCain to introduce his running mate. Palin is only the second woman in American history to be a vice presidential candidate from a major party.

"I had a lot of good people to choose from," McCain told the enthusiastic crowd. "I have found the right partner...I found someone who has accomplished reform, who has accomplished and managed a multi-billion dollar budget and fought against corruption and the failed politics of the past."

Palin told the crowd she's not interested in being vice president to maintain the status quo.

"I didn't get into government to do the safe and easy thing," she said. "It's like the that old adage 'A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why the ship is built.' Politics isn't just a game of clashing parties and competing interests. The people of America expect us to seek public office and to serve for the right reason."

Palin repeated many of the lines she delivered in her introductory speech Friday in Dayton, Ohio, including remarks praising Sen. Hillary Clinton for breaking the political glass ceiling and collecting 18 million votes in the Democratic presidential primaries.

But where the Clinton line drew cheers in Dayton, it was lustily booed in this town, located about 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

Obama and running mate Joe Biden, meanwhile, stumped in Ohio Saturday. At the same time, their campaign unveiled a 30-second national TV ad that says McCain's selection of Palin should not obscure the fact that McCain candidacy represents a continuation of President Bush's policies.

"So, while this may be his running mate," an announcer says with a photo of Palin on the screen, "America knows this is McCain's agenda." The visual then switches to a shot of McCain and Bush. "We can't afford four more years of the same."

Obama himself offered a non-committal assessment of Palin during a television interview released Saturday. Speaking during a taping of CBS' "60 Minutes," Obama said Palin "Obviously, she's a fine mother and an up and coming public servant" but added "It's too early for me to gauge what kind of running mate she'll be. My sense is that she subscribes to John McCain's agenda."

The new ad ran as McCain and Palin campaigned their way through the southwestern area of Pennsylvania, making short stops before the late afternoon ballpark rally.

Earlier in the day, McCain and Palin greeted voters at Tom's Diner's in Pittsburgh's Southside neighborhood.

"It's great to see another part of the country," Palin told reporters who accompanied the candidates into the diner.

Palin, who has been on the go since being whisked with her husband and five children from Alaska to Dayton, Ohio, for McCain's vice presidential announcement, said she's enjoying campaigning and admitted to not getting much sleep in the last few days.

"Yeah, a little sleep, but we're not going to get much sleep," she said, holding her son, Trig.

Obama and Biden hit the diner circuit in Ohio before attending a funeral service in Cleveland for the late U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. The Ohio Democrat was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a staunch support of Hillary Clinton during the primaries.

Obama told reporters he was "deeply concerned" about the threat of Hurricane Gustav to New Orleans and was asking his Senate staff to monitor the situation. Obama also spoke Saturday with FEMA director R. David Paulison and to officials in Louisiana.

"We're praying for New Orleans," Obama said.

Biden said the state and federal government seems "much, much, much more prepared" for this storm than Hurricane Katrina.

Even so, he said, "Say a prayer it doesn't hit. They've had enough."

McCain also expressed concern about Gustav, saying in a taped segment of FOX News Sunday that next week's Republican National Convention in St. Paul-Minneapolis might be trimmed or altered because of the storm barreling towards the Gulf Coast.

"It wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster," he said in the taped interview.

The Democratic candidates also attended a rally Saturday evening in Dublin, Ohio, an affluent swing-vote suburb of Columbus that is home to corporate headquarters including Wendy's International and boasts a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. Nicklaus, the legendary golfer, endorsed President Bush in 2004 at a rally in Columbus.

However, Dublin seemed a natural fit for the Irish-Catholic Biden. Dublin's motto: "Irish is an attitude."

At the Yankee Kitchen in Boardman, Ohio, the Obamas and Bidens shook hands and posed for photos before tucking into booth for breakfast. They talked to an unemployed social worker a retired road superintendent and a McDonald's franchise owner and Obama fund-raiser who said he bought one of his stores from Michelle Obama's uncle.

Lucy Moreland-Smith, a deputy clerk at Youngstown Municipal Court, called a friend from the restaurant said gushed into the phone that she was watching the man she believed would be the next president eats breakfast:

"They're just eating and talking like normal people," she said. "And look, he is just talking like a normal conversation with his wife while he's sitting there eating and drinking coffee. He stuffed his mouth with eggs. I love him. He's my kind of guy."

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