Barack Obama spent the US Independence Day holiday in the western state of Montana, watching a parade, eating a hot dog and trying to woo moderate voters in the traditionally Republican stronghold.
Obama, accompanied by his wife, two daughters, sister and other relatives, watched the town’s Fourth of July parade before going to a campaign-sponsored “family picnic” for hundreds of people. The presumptive Democratic nominee, who has highlighted the theme of patriotism throughout the week, talked to the crowd about his personal background of being raised by a single mother. “I know that there is no other country out there where I could be standing before you as somebody who could potentially be president of the United States,” Obama said. “We are going to change the world.”
McCain was spending the holiday weekend in his home state of Arizona after wrapping up a three-day visit to Colombia and Mexico on Thursday to promote free trade and burnish his foreign policy credentials.
The Obamas also celebrated the birthday of their oldest daughter Malia, who turned 10 on Friday. The Obamas spent part of the afternoon sitting for interviews with such family friendly magazines as People, Essence and Parents, and television’s Access Hollywood. Aides were seen carting Hula Hoops, colouring books and whiffle balls so the girls could be photographed playing.
The relatively low-key campaign day came on the heels of a dust-up Thursday for the Illinois senator over his Iraq war policy. While visiting Fargo, North Dakota, Obama talked about his Iraq war policy and his upcoming trip to Iraq. The Iraq war, which Obama has called a mistake and McCain has strongly supported, has been a key difference between the two presidential contenders. Obama indicated that his talks with military commanders in Iraq could refine his promise to remove US combat troops within 16 months of taking office.
“I am going to do a thorough assessment when I’m there,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll have more information and continue to refine my policy.”
Those words quickly drew a response from Republicans who accused the Democrat of changing course on one of his core policies. “There appears to be no issue that Barack Obama is not willing to reverse himself on for the sake of political expedience,” said Alex Conant, a spokesman for the national Republican Party. Obama, who has tried to portray himself as a transcendent politician who will bring change to Washington, called a second news conference to clarify, accusing McCain supporters of distorting his remarks.
The Democrat said what he learns from the military commanders will refine his policy, but “not the 16-month timetable” for withdrawing US troops from combat in Iraq. He said what he learns could affect how many residual troops might be needed to train the Iraqi army and police.