GREENSBORO, N.C. - Following closely on the heels of the first of three highly anticipated presidential debates, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made his second appearance in North Carolina within a week with running mate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., Saturday morning.
Against the industrial backdrop of the downtown train station, Obama honed in on the floundering economy and the current financial turmoil on Wall Street before an enthused crowd of 18,000, attempting to portray GOP presidential candidate John McCain as out of touch with the struggles of middle-class Americans.
"The truth is, through 90 minutes of debating, John McCain had a lot to say about me, but he had nothing to say about you," said the Illinois senator. "He didn't even say the words 'middle class.' He didn't say the words 'working people.' See, I think Sen. McCain just doesn't get it."
Channeling populist themes that every American should have the opportunity to get their piece of the pie, Obama and Biden portrayed McCain as a candidate "tethered to George Bush's failed economic policies" and beholden to corporate interests.
"George Bush has dug us into a deep hole. John McCain was carrying the shovel," Obama said. "I am running for president because we simply cannot afford another four more years of an economic philosophy that works for Wall Street instead of Main Street."
Obama and Biden emphasized the need for oversight and regulation in the market as their fellow lawmakers in Washington were negotiating a $700 billion bailout for troubled financial institutions.
"The era of greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington has led us to a financial crisis as serious as any we have faced since the Great Depression," Obama said. "They said they wanted to let the market run free, but instead they let it run wild."
Biden attacked McCain by calling him "wrong" more than 15 times in his roughly 15-minute speech on issues like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and homeland security, providing a dose of foreign policy to fire up the crowd before Obama's address.
Despite the rain, the crowd arrived hailing Obama's candidacy with hand-painted signs of "NC for Obama" and "Yes We Will." A contingent of Duke students missed out on Saturday's football festivities to make the drive to see the man who could be the next president.
"It was honestly hard to believe that it was only an hour from Duke-the first post-debate rally," said sophomore Anthony Sanderson, a member of Duke Democrats.
He said Obama capitalized on a strong performance in Friday's debate by criticizing McCain for not discussing the middle class.
McCain's campaign, however, proposed a different one-word litmus to assess the candidates' performances in the debate.
"Barack Obama failed to utter the word 'victory' a single time during last night's debate on foreign policy," McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds said in a statement Saturday. "And that's failing the commander-in-chief test by any standard."
McCain spent his Saturday in Virginia discussing the financial bailout with his Senate colleagues.