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Obama Directs Address To Young, Middle Class

This story was written by Erin Gregory, The Maneater

KANSAS CITY - Before a crowd of 75,000, presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a wide-ranging speech addressing the economic crisis, education and recent criticisms from Republican rival John McCain.

Obama gave the speech here after an earlier speech in St. Louis that drew roughly 100,000 supporters.

Although his speech was largely positive, Obama also addressed McCain's criticism of his proposed economic plan.

"McCain is so out of touch with the struggles you are facing that he must be the first politician in history to call a tax cut for working people welfare," Obama said.

Obama also responded to the questions raised by the McCain campaign concerning his associations with former Weather Underground member William Ayers and Chicago real estate investor Tony Rezko.

"While my opponent thinks this campaign is all about me, the truth is, this campaign is about you," Obama said. "Your jobs, your health care, your retirement. Your children's future. That's what this election is about. That's what I'm fighting for."

Obama then went on to address his tax policies, noting that people making less than $250,000 would not see a tax increase. He also said that he would eliminate capital gains taxes on small businesses and provide a tax incentive for small business investments.

One of the main focuses of the speech was on helping the middle class. Obama told a story about a Republican restaurant owner he met in Ohio who complained that his business wasn't doing well under the current administration.

"Sir, if you keep hitting your head against the wall and it starts to hurt and it starts to get a headache, at some point do you stop hitting your head against the wall?" Obama asked. "You might want to try voting Democrat."

Obama's focus on middle-class issues resonated with some members of the crowd.

"I feel that he is really sincere and that he will do everything he can," said Beverly Cole, who drove three hours with her husband from Salina, Kan., to attend the rally.

Obama is also attempting to court younger voters with his plan to make college more affordable. Obama said he would provide students with a $4,000 tax credit to reward them for their volunteerism.

"If you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford your tuition," Obama said. "No ifs, ands or buts. You invest in America, America will invest in you."

Kansas City resident Derrion Washington said Obama's higher education plan will encourage young voters to turn out to the polls.

"Obama's charisma has tapped into the young vote very well, especially those who have had money cut from their college funds," Washington said.

University of Kansas junior Ryan Schairmer said Obama was able to reach the crowd during his address.

"I thought it was a really great speech," Schairmer said. "It was pretty overwhelming. Everyone was really excited and energetic."

In the last few weeks, as the economy has become of increasing concern to voters, Obama has seen a jump in the polls, including in Missouri, a crucial battleground state in the race.

According to a national CNN/Time magazine poll released Oct. 14, Obama is leading McCain 49 percent to 48 percent, with a 3.5 percent margin of error. A national Rasmussen poll released Oct. 15 has Obama leading 52 percent to 46 percent, with a 4.5 percent margin of error.