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Pa. Gov. Rendell takes his turn on the stump

October 31, 2008|By DON AINES

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - The polls in Pennsylvania are tightening between Barack Obama and John McCain, prompting Gov. Ed Rendell to criss-cross the state for the Democratic nominee, including a meeting with a group of students Thursday morning at the Ceddia Union Building of Shippensburg University.

"My gut feeling is that this is a single-digit election," Rendell told the group of about 200 students, citing a Mason-Dixon poll showing Obama with a 4 percent lead with five days left before the election.

Rendell's visit came two days after Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin drew several thousand people to the campus. Both McCain and Palin have been campaigning hard for Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes, as was Obama, who was in the state Tuesday with Rendell.

"She's been here so long I'm thinking of charging her state income tax," Rendell said of the Alaska governor. Rendell said "appearances matter" and the visits by the Republican ticket "reignited their base."

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"What I'm saying is this is not a slam dunk," said Rendell, reminding the students and faculty that most polls showed John Kerry leading George W. Bush four years ago.

The governor tried to dispel the GOP campaign arguments that, as president, Obama would raise their taxes.

"His tax cut is going to be three times greater than John McCain's," Rendell said. Almost 5 million of the state's residents without dependents would not get tax relief from the McCain plan, he said.

Under Obama, Rendell said every working person making less than $200,000 as an individual or $250,000 as a family would receive tax relief. Obama also would provide college tuition and child care tax credits to families, he said.

"We've had progressive taxes in this country for a long time ... Nobody's complained about the graduated income tax until these guys," he said of the Republicans. As for claims Obama would "spread the wealth," Rendell said Palin did essentially the same thing in Alaska by giving each citizen an extra $1,200 from the state's share of oil revenues.

The money raised by raising taxes on people with the highest incomes would help pay for health care coverage for millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans, Rendell said. The top 5 percent of people in this country, he said, earned 36 percent of all income, while the bottom 50 percent earn 13 percent.

"I've never been angry at any of my opponents," but this time is different, Rendell said. "This time, I just don't want to win. I want to crush them, because they've run one of the dirtiest, most despicable campaigns."

That included questioning the religious faith and patriotism of Obama, he said.

"If we get Pennsylvania, he's basically got it," Obama supporter Sarah Shank said. The senior from Waynesboro, Pa., said she knows Obama will do well among the campus community, but was "a little disappointed in the turnout."

"I saw Sarah Palin speak and I wanted to see the Democratic point of view, as well," said Andy Vo, a senior from Lebanon, Pa.

Frank Fochtman, a freshman, said he was there for the same reason, but Rendell was running late and he worried about making it to his next class on time.

"I'm sure if I walk back with one of those buttons, my professor will let me off," Fochtman said, referring to a table of Obama campaign buttons.

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