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Ridge campaigns for McCain in Pa.

October 25, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- With less than two weeks left until the presidential election and John McCain trailing in Pennsylvania, longtime political ally and former governor Tom Ridge stopped in Chambersburg Friday to tell a crowd of about a hundred people to "get out and get people talking about this election."

When Ridge kicked off his gubernatorial campaign in 1994, McCain was by his side during an appearance in Chambersburg. Ridge stumped for McCain on Friday, stressing his economic message to those assembled in front of the Franklin County Courthouse.

"When you start dividing the country along economic lines, I don't think that's presidential," the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said of Democratic nominee Barack Obama's proposals to raise taxes on those earning more than $250,000 per year. "I don't think that it appeals to the better angel of our nature."

"I think they want us to create wealth, not spread it," Ridge said later over a cup of hot chocolate at the Olympia Candy Kitchen, referring to a comment that Obama made about income redistribution to "Joe the Plumber" in Ohio. "How do you help the wage earner if you undermine the wage payer?"

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Ridge, who was in his second term as governor when President Bush tapped him to be the first head of Homeland Security, told McCain's supporters that the current economic crisis is not the fault of Bush, McCain or Obama. The fault, he said, dates to the late 1990s, when "well-intentioned" Democrats pushed for lending policies "to put people in homes who normally couldn't afford to make the mortgage payments."

The problem was made worse by unscrupulous practices by Wall Street investors, Ridge said.

"A lot of people in Washington knew this was a house of cards," but failed to heed the warnings, Ridge said.

Ridge said he believes McCain is behind Obama by about 6 percentage points in Pennsylvania, but that the race can be turned around in the remaining days.

"This is the battleground state," Ridge said. "I personally believe if John wins Pennsylvania, he becomes president of the United States."

To do so, Ridge said McCain has to "stay on message," drawing contrasts between the candidates' respective economic plans. McCain has to stress lower taxes and getting federal spending under control along with "energy, energy, energy. That's the sector that can drive economic resurgence."

Ridge defended vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, saying the Alaska governor has energized the base, appeals to young and female voters and bolsters McCain's maverick credentials.

While the war on terror has taken a back seat to the economy, Ridge said McCain also needs to talk about his national security credentials. McCain also has to target "values voters" for whom social issues are important.

Ridge, whose next stop was in Gettysburg, Pa., said he will be on the campaign trail full time until Nov. 4.

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