HARRISONBURG, Va. - Sen. Barack Obama seized upon comments by a top aide to Sen. John McCain about the Republican's health-care plan, saying that they amounted to an "October surprise" at a boisterous rally in this Shenandoah Valley town.
"This morning, we were offered a stunning bit of straight talk ... from his top economic adviser, who actually said that the health insurance people currently get from their employer is, and I quote, 'way better' than the health care they'd be getting if John McCain were president," Obama told 8,000 supporters crammed into the convocation center at James Madison University. About 12,000 more stood outside.
"This is the point I've been making since Senator McCain unveiled his plan," Obama said. "It took until the last seven days of this election for his campaign to finally admit the truth. But better late than never."
Obama was referring to a quote from McCain's senior economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who told CNNMoney.com that young, healthy workers likely wouldn't give up their company-sponsored plans for the $5,000 tax credit McCain would offer to offset the cost of purchasing private insurance.
"Why would they leave?" Holtz-Eakin said. "What they are getting from their employer is way better than what they could get with the credit."
Obama called McCain's plan, which would tax employees' company benefits, "radical" and not affordable.
He defended his proposal to offer health-care access to all, which McCain has said will result in a massive, ineffective bureaucracy ruining American health care. Obama said nothing would change for those who have insurance through their employers, aside from lower premiums.
Yesterday marked Obama's ninth trip to Virginia since he clinched the Democratic Party nomination in June, and the candidate has put in play a commonwealth that has supported Democratic presidential nominees just twice in 60 years. The last time was in 1964.
Earlier yesterday, McCain concentrated on conservative areas of Pennsylvania while Obama pressed his case in the suburbs of Philadelphia. With a week to Election Day, Pennsylvania is living up to its nickname as the political keystone for both camps.