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John McCain And Barack Obama Debate War Policies

John McCain, Barack Obama Debate War Policies; Domestic Issues Dominate Candidates' Discussions With African-American Voters

Washington -- As they campaigned in battleground states and reached out to minority voters, the presidential candidates seemed eager to prove they are prepared to deal with the lagging economy and ready to handle challenging security issues as commander in chief.

Speaking in Washington July 15, presumed Democratic nominee Barack Obama said that as president, he would end the war in Iraq, which "distracts us from every threat we face."

"Iraq is not going to be a perfect place, and we don't have unlimited resources to try and make it one," the Illinois senator said, maintaining his position that U.S troops can be withdrawn from Iraq within 16 months and some of those troops can be used to fight the war in Afghanistan.

"Our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe," Obama said.

About an hour later at a town hall in Albuquerque, New Mexico -- an event billed as focused on the economy - presumed Republican nominee John McCain responded to Obama's comments.

Saying "I know how to win wars," McCain said Obama "will tell you we can't win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq. In fact, he has it exactly backwards." The Arizona senator said following a plan similar to that used to surge troop levels in Iraq would help the United States defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Later in July, Obama is scheduled to make his first trip to Afghanistan and to visit Iraq for the first time since January 2006. McCain has criticized the Illinois senator for developing a withdrawal plan without first meeting with commanders in the region.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found 72 percent of Americans say McCain would make a good commander in chief, compared to 48 percent who say the same about Obama.

Domestic Issues Dominate African-American Convention

Both presidential candidates primarily addressed domestic issues when speaking to participants of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) 99th annual convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In his speech July 14, Obama told NAACP members that their organization serves as "a powerful reminder of the debt we all owe to those who marched for us and fought for us. ... It is because of them ... that I stand before you tonight as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America."

John McCain speaks at the NAACP convention in Cincinnati, Ohio."But social justice is not enough," Obama said. "It matters little if you have the right to sit at the lunch counter if you can't afford the lunch." The presumed Democratic nominee said an essential element of equality is ensuring all Americans have access to jobs, health benefits and educational opportunities.

Obama said he supports providing more-affordable health care to the one in five African Americans who lack it. He also wants to invest more in fighting poverty.

In his speech July 16, McCain also paid tribute to African Americans who fought for social justice, and like Obama noted more work remains. "You know better than I do how different the challenges are today for those who champion the cause of equal opportunity in America."

Talking about the economy, McCain said if he is elected, "I'll work with every member of Congress -- Republican, Democrat, and Independent -- who shares my commitment to reforming government and controlling spending."

The presumed Republican nominee also discussed his energy goals, which include building 45 nuclear power plants that will create more than 700,000 American jobs.

Both candidates' speeches emphasized education, a topic that has gotten little attention on the campaign trail. McCain said he would provide more funding to recruit better teachers and pay bonuses to teachers who agree to work in troubled schools. He also called for more federal funds to develop online courses. Obama said he would also improve teacher recruitment and provide a $4,000 tax credit to make college more affordable.

Polls currently indicate about 90 percent of African-American voters support Obama.

Television Ads Target Swing-state Voters

Targeting battleground states, the candidates are running television ads to further their campaign messages. McCain, who began running general election ads when he became his party's presumed nominee in March, has spent about $15 million on television. Obama launched his first general election ad on June 20, and has spent about $11 million.

Political experts anticipate Obama outspending McCain because Obama, whose fundraising is setting new records for a presidential campaign, has more money. After the national conventions, McCain will be limited to the $84 million available through public financing funds, but the Republican Party also can pay for advertisements on his behalf. Obama opted out of the public financing system, the first major party candidate to do so since the system was established. (See "Public Financing Helps Fuel U.S. Presidential Campaigns.")

Both candidates have released ads designed to highlight elements in their personal backgrounds likely to connect with voters in states like Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In one ad, images of McCain from his years serving in the U.S. Navy are paired with narration that describes McCain's love of country. McCain "always put his country and her people before self, before politics," the narrator says.

In an Obama ad, the narrator says that after finishing law school, Obama "turned down big money offers, and helped lift neighborhoods stung by job loss."

Other ads address specific issues -- both have ads accusing the other candidate of having weak energy policies -- and some ads target key audiences. For example, a McCain ad playing in states with large Hispanic populations applauds Hispanics for serving in the military and calls for immigration reform. A recent Gallup poll indicates Obama is favored by Hispanics by a margin of about 30 percentage points.


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