WARREN, Ohio — Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden said Tuesday that Republican John McCain is offering no new ideas for a financially distressed nation, only the same negativity toward rival Barack Obama.
"What did John McCain do? He laid out some new attacks on Barack Obama," Biden said in criticizing McCain's latest stump speech. "The distinction could not be clearer _ one guy is fighting for you and the other guy is fighting mad."
Biden spoke to about 1,000 high school students and union members at an amphitheater in downtown Warren, a park-like setting starkly different from the boarded-up restaurants, closed gas stations and half-vacant shopping plazas on the city's outskirts.
Warren sits in the heart of a three-county region that the federal government is about to make part of Appalachia, a designation that will allow the economically depressed area to receive assistance from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Biden promoted Obama's proposals for immediate aid for those with financial hardships: a moratorium on foreclosures, a $1,000 rebate to help homeowners with heating costs, and penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts.
"John has nothing new to offer," Biden said. "That's why you're seeing John McCain's campaign becoming so erratic."
McCain proposed Tuesday that the government eliminate taxes on unemployment benefits as part of a $52.5 billion economic plan to address the financial crisis. He also proposed lowering the tax rate on Individual Retirement Accounts and 401(k) plans.
Biden told the Warren audience that there's a fundamental difference between the Democratic and Republican tickets. Then someone in the audience shouted, "Brains!" The Delaware senator laughed and the crowd cheered.
"Maybe I should stop here," Biden chuckled.
In response to Biden's assertions, McCain campaign spokesman Ben Porritt said the Obama-Biden ticket will raise taxes.
"While tax addict Joe Biden was doing his best to cover for Barack Obama's poor economic judgment, John McCain was outlining his pension and family security plan to keep Americans in their homes while protecting savings and investments for seniors," Porritt said.
Warren was Biden's first stop on a two-day bus tour of eastern and central Ohio cities suffering economically. He also attended rallies in two other Appalachian Ohio cities Tuesday, St. Clairsville and Marietta. On Wednesday, he was scheduled to visit Athens, Lancaster and Newark.
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin campaigned Sunday in St. Clairsville, a small town near the West Virginia border, and told the crowd Obama doesn't understand such places.
Later Tuesday, Biden made an unannounced stop at the Steel Trolley Diner in Lisbon. Sitting at the lunch counter, Biden chatted briefly with reporters, commenting on the tone of the McCain campaign and its references to Obama's association with 1960s radical William Ayers, a founder of the violent, anti-war group the Weather Underground that claimed responsibility for a series of domestic bombings. Ayers is now a professor in Obama's hometown of Chicago, where the two have worked with the same charity and social services organizations.
"The ads that are being run picturing Barack Obama and people saying 'known terrorist,' I think that's over the top," Biden said. "Barack Obama was 8 years old when this guy Ayers was doing bad things."
Biden said he'd be disappointed if McCain brought up Ayers during the final presidential debate on Wednesday night.
On the Net:
Obama campaign: http://www.barackobama.com/index.php
McCain campaign: http://www.johnmccain.com/