GRESHAM, Ore. - Democrat Barack Obama told seniors yesterday that Republican John McCain would threaten the Social Security that they and millions like them depend on because he supports privatizing the program.
Obama turned to a bedrock, pocketbook issue as he spoke to about 130 people at an assisted living facility and sought to tie the GOP's presidential nominee-in-waiting to an unpopular President Bush on an issue that motivates seniors.
"Let me be clear, privatizing Social Security was a bad idea when George W. Bush proposed it, it's a bad idea today," Obama said. "That's why I stood up against this plan in the Senate and that's why I won't stand for it as president."
Bush proposed a Social Security plan in 2005 that focused on creating private accounts for younger workers, but it never came up for a vote in Congress. Democrats strongly opposed the idea and few Republicans embraced it.
Obama said McCain would push to raise the retirement age for collecting Social Security benefits or trim annual cost-of-living increases. Obama has rejected both ideas as solutions to the funding crisis projected for Social Security in favor of making higher-income workers pay more into the system.
"We have to protect Social Security for future generations without pushing the burden onto seniors who have earned the right to retire in dignity," he said.
It was a day of coastal campaigning for the two Democrats still competing for the party's presidential nomination.
Obama was in Oregon, where he is favored to win the state's presidential primary tomorrow. Hillary Clinton spent a second straight day in Kentucky, where she is favored to win there tomorrow when its voters head to the polls.
She attended services at a Methodist church in Bowling Green, and happily sang hymns and joined in Bible readings. Her smile faded when the pastor launched into a sermon about adultery, asking his congregants whether the devil had ever whispered over their shoulders in their marriages.
Her mood appeared to brighten by the time she arrived for a rally at West Kentucky University.
"Now, my opponent said the other day he wasn't coming back, so I've got the whole state to myself," Clinton said, sounding happy not to be sharing the Kentucky spotlight. "What a treat."
Obama, the front-runner for the nomination, has begun casting himself as the inevitable nominee and using his time to distinguish himself from McCain as he pivots toward the fall campaign. He has scheduled appearances later this week in Iowa and Florida, two key swing states.
Later yesterday, Obama was headed for a big outdoor rally in Portland and a second town meeting in Pendleton before a late flight to Montana for a day of campaigning today. *