Sen. John McCain derided Sen. Barack Obama's foreign policy experience today in a swing across Pennsylvania while continuing to invoke his new best friend, Joe the Plumber, as an argument for the ills of the Democrat's tax policies.
Over the weekend, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democratic vice presidential nominee, predicted that his running mate would be tested by some international crisis in the early days of his administration. Seizing on those remarks, Mr. McCain declared, "We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars."
"We've seen the wrong response from him over and over during this campaign," Mr. McCain told thousands of supporters at Robert Morris University this evening. "He opposed the surge strategy that is bringing us victory in Iraq and will bring us victory in Afghanistan. He said he would sit down unconditionally with the world's worst dictators. When Russia committed aggression against Georgia, he said the invaded country should show restraint. He's been wrong on all of these."
Mr. McCain pointed to his experience as a Navy pilot on the carrier U.S. Enterprise during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
"We had a target," he said. "I know how close we came to a nuclear war and I will not be a president who needs to be tested. I have been tested. Sen. Obama has not."
The Obama campaign dismissed the criticism prompted by the Biden remarks, contending that his observation was a statement of the obvious about any new administration.
In the latest of a cascade of Pennsylvania appearances by members of the Republican ticket, Mr. McCain also appeared to allude to recent statements from Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, in which he had suggested that Western Pennsylvania was a racist area, and, after apologizing for that, noted that the region had past marked by "red neck" traditions.
While he didn't mention Mr. Murtha by name, Mr. McCain seemed to have him in mind as he said, "I couldn't disagree more ... This is a great part of the country, I could not disagree with those critics more, this is a great part of America, this is the heartland of America."
With two weeks until Election Day, Mr. McCain spent the day crossing Pennsylvania from Bensalem to Moon, delivering a speech that steered clear of attacking Sen. Barack Obama's ties to Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground terror group.
Instead, earlier today in Harrisburg he made political hay of Toledo plumber Joe Wurzelbacher, who was mentioned repeatedly as an example of a struggling blue-collar worker by both presidential candidates during last week's debate.
"After months of campaign trail eloquence, we've finally learned what Sen. Obama's economic goal is," Mr. McCain said this afternoon. "As he told Joe, he wants to 'spread the wealth around.' He believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.
"Sen. Obama is more interested in controlling who gets your piece of the pie than in growing the pie."
Mr. McCain said he wants to create opportunities, not redistribute wealth.
The Arizona senator, who appeared with his wife Cindy, also drew distinctions between his and Mr. Obama's health plans.
"He will force them into a new huge government-run health care program," Mr. McCain said. "I will bring down the skyrocketing cost of health care with competition and choice [that will] lower your premiums and make it more available to more Americans."
Mr. McCain has proposed providing families with $5,000 tax credits so they can buy private health insurance.
Democrats are critical of the plan. They say it would give too much control to insurance carriers who could refuse to cover pre-existing medical conditions. Critics also say the funding mechanism -- a new tax on health insurance -- would encourage companies to drop medical coverage for their workers.
Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, who spoke with reporters after the rally, said Mr. McCain's plan is bad for seniors because it would be funded by cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
"It will result in higher premiums and co-pays and more expensive drugs," he said.
Mary Lou Lawyer, 81, of Highspire, doesn't know the details of either candidates' health policies, but one thing is for sure: Mr. McCain will get her vote.
"He's a veteran and that is one of the most important things," Mrs. Lawyer said from the audience after the rally. "I cannot imagine a better president because he has been through so much. He's just got to be our president."
The rally drew about 2,000 people who cheered enthusiastically and waved signs saying "Maverick," and "Cindy for First Lady." Others carried "Democrats for Obama" signs.
Mr. McCain, who is behind is the race to the White House, according to most polls, needs to shore up votes in swing states like Pennsylvania.
"Coming to Bensalem, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh and spending 90 percent of his time attacking Barack Obama is not the way to do it," Mr. Rendell said.