McCain told those gathered for a town hall meeting that Obama is a talented orator with an agenda that could be boiled down to simple policies the Arizona Republican opposes.
"Government is too big, he wants to grow it. Taxes are to high, he wants to raise them," McCain said. "Congress spends too much and he proposes more. We need more energy and he's against producing it. We're finally winning in Iraq, and he wants to forfeit."
McCain's criticism came before he was to travel to Wilmington to discuss possible job losses, as many as 8,000, from the proposed closure of a DHL shipping site, the result of a corporate merger aided by his campaign manager during his work as a lobbyist.
In 2003, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis lobbied Congress to accept a proposal by German-owned DHL to buy Airborne Express, which kept its domestic hub in Wilmington in southwest Ohio.
In announcing a restructuring plan in May, DHL said it planned to hire United Parcel Service to move some of its air packages, sending them through an airport in Louisville, Ky., and putting the Wilmington Air Park out of business.
Davis took a leave of absence from his lobbying practice to work for McCain, a self-styled reformer who asked his campaign staff to disclose all previous lobbying ties and make certain they were no longer registered as lobbyists or foreign agents.
The economy and job losses are important issues in Ohio, a critical swing state that gave President Bush the electoral votes needed for re-election in 2004.
McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said Wednesday that Davis had not worked with DHL since 2005, long before DHL announced plans to move its work out of Wilmington. The companies merged in 2003.
"At the time of the merger, no one anticipated an impact on jobs in Wilmington," Rogers said.
McCain, as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, had a role in the deal, too. He urged then-Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens to abandon proposed legislation that would have prohibited foreign-owned carriers from flying U.S. military equipment or troops, which Airborne Express said was aimed at torpedoing its merger with DHL.
Rogers said McCain opposed the bill because it could have hurt the military's airlift capabilities in a time of war.
The DHL-Airborne deal ultimately went through, despite opposition from competitors UPS and FedEx, which argued that it would violate a ban on foreign control of domestic airlines. DHL is the U.S.-based shipping unit of German postal service Deutsche Post AG.
On Wednesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat and Obama supporter, called on McCain and Davis to use their past ties to DHL to urge the company not to move jobs out of Wilmington.
"John McCain through this whole thing has said zero about his connection to DHL," Brown said. "We need their help. I'm accusing them of indifference."
A task force of local and federal elected officials as well as business and labor leaders has been working to save the jobs.
"This is worthy of every presidential candidate's attention," Wilmington Mayor David Raizk said. "Whether it's a vote-changing issue or not, I think it might be a little too early to tell. It's a matter of making sure our situation here stays on the front burner."
During a campaign visit last month, Obama discussed the situation with Raizk and other officials and pledged to help if elected.
In a statement Wednesday, Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich called the situation "one of the worst job catastrophes that any community in this nation is facing" and said the involvement of both McCain and Obama indicated it merited global attention.
"We are going to need some involvement by the German government," Voinovich said.
DHL declined to comment.
Ohio is a general election battleground state, and rural southwest Ohio, where Wilmington is located, is a Republican stronghold. In 2004, Clinton County - which includes Wilmington - voted for Bush over Democrat John Kerry by more than 2-to-1, even though Bush narrowly won the state.