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Obama And McCain Return To Familiar Themes

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With five days left until Election Day, both John McCain and Barack Obama are returning to familiar themes as the make their final push for votes.

For Obama, that means a return to the change theme that was part of his primary campaign:

SUNRISE, Fla. — As he races across the country in the climax of a marathon campaign, Senator Barack Obama has honed a final message calling on America to “turn the page” on an era of “greed and irresponsibility,” tapping into populist sentiment while reassuring voters that he is no radical.

His “time for change” closing argument in this moment of national anxiety focuses heavily on the economic issues that are at the core of voter concerns right now, skipping quickly past the questions of war and peace that animated his campaign when it started nearly two years ago.

“We’ve tried it John McCain’s way, we’ve tried it George Bush’s way, and it hasn’t worked,” Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, told thousands of supporters on Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., his first stop of the day. “That’s why I’m running for president. Now, deep down, John McCain knows his economic theories don’t work. That’s why his campaign says, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’ That’s why I keep on talking about the economy.”

Mr. Obama added: “Because he knows his economic theories don’t work, he’s been spending these last few days calling me every name in the book. Lately, he’s called me a socialist for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class. By the end of the week, he’ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten.”

As he devotes the waning days to Republican strongholds in the South and the West, Mr. Obama arranged for a show of unity by appearing with former President Bill Clinton at a late-night rally outside Orlando on Wednesday, the first time the two have campaigned together. (“Are you ready for a new president?” Mr. Clinton told a large crowd as he showered praise on Mr. Obama.) The visual cue was a symbolic passing of the torch from the last Democratic president to the man who hopes to be the next one.

The closing Obama speech is cautious, calibrated to cement the inroads he has made with voters whose comfort level with him has grown. Even as he sums up the case for his candidacy, Mr. Obama is seeking to defuse any remaining uncertainty about electing a largely untested first-term senator and dispel his critics’ depiction of him as an inexperienced, unproven leader who would raise taxes, redistribute wealth and go soft on terrorists.

“In six days, we can choose hope over fear, unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo,” Mr. Obama said, speaking over loud applause here in a campaign address that doubled as a political infomercial that was broadcast in prime time. “In six days, we can come together as one nation, and one people, and once more choose our better history.”

John McCain, meanwhile, has adopted a theme that Republicans have been using for decades now:

MIAMI — In these waning days of Senator John McCain’s quest for the White House, he has returned in his speeches to a time-honored Republican attack line against Democrats: the evils of taxes. Or, as he summed it up while pummeling Senator Barack Obama in a lumberyard here on Wednesday, “This is the fundamental difference between Senator Obama and me: He thinks taxes are too low, and I think that spending is too high.”

The line was the central theme of the final version of Mr. McCain’s evolving stump speech and reflected what his advisers calculate is his last, best argument against Mr. Obama. Higher taxes, they say, strike fear in voters already threatened by the precarious economy, as do Mr. McCain’s charges that Mr. Obama would effectively be a socialist.

“You see, Senator Obama believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs,” Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, told a modest crowd under crisp sunshine at Everglades Lumber, where two people held up a sign that said, “Stop Socialism, Vote McCain.”

Mr. McCain continued: “He said that even though lower taxes on investment help our economy, he favors higher taxes on investment for, quote, ‘fairness.’ There’s nothing fair about driving our economy into the ground. We all suffer when that happens, and that is the problem with Senator Obama’s approach to our economy. He is more interested in controlling wealth than in creating it, in redistributing money instead of spreading opportunity. I’m going to create wealth for all Americans, by creating opportunities for all Americans.”

Joe the Plumber, otherwise known as Joe Wurzelbacher of Holland, Ohio, continues to get such big billing in Mr. McCain’s stump that it sometimes seems as if he is the candidate’s running mate. Mr. McCain and his advisers say they fervently believe that Mr. Wurzelbacher is the single best embodiment of their economic argument against Mr. Obama, who told Mr. Wurzelbacher in a now-famous encounter in the plumber’s driveway that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Mr. Wurzelbacher, who has said he wants to buy a small plumbing business, campaigned with Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the vice-presidential nominee, in Ohio on Wednesday.

“Now, Joe didn’t ask for Senator Obama to come to his house, and he didn’t ask to be famous,” Mr. McCain said in his speech in here. “He certainly didn’t ask for the political attacks on him from the Obama campaign. Joe’s dream is this dream, Joe’s dream is to own a small business that will create jobs, and the attacks on him are an attack on small businesses all over this country. These are people like Gus the Homebuilder and Peter the Exterminator right here in Miami. Small businesses employ 84 percent of Americans, and we need to support these small businesses, not tax them.”

The differences are clear.

Obama is asking people to vote for him. McCain is telling people they need to vote against his dangerous opponent.

It’s a tactic that’s worked before, will it work this time?