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Columbia Missourian

Biden makes stop in Springfield

By CHRIS BLANK/The Associated Press
October 10, 2008 | 2:24 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD — Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden asserted Friday that Republican John McCain's campaign is trying to distract voters from the nation's financial woes by attacking Democrat Barack Obama.

"Every single false charge, every single baseless accusation is an attempt to stop you from paying attention to what is affecting your daily lives, to what is happening at your kitchen table," Biden said at a campaign rally in Springfield, a traditional Republican stronghold.

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McCain's campaign launched a TV ad Friday that raises questions about Obama's ties to an anti-Vietnam war radical. The ad states: "When convenient, he worked with terrorist Bill Ayers. When discovered, he lied."

The ad follows up on McCain's criticisms of Obama while speaking at a town hall forum in Wisconsin. McCain said Thursday that Obama hasn't been transparent in explaining links to Ayers. GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been even more blunt. She has accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists."

Ayers is a Chicago college professor who helped found the violent Weather Underground in 1969. The group is blamed for bombing government buildings in the early 1970s.

Obama and Ayers live in the same Chicago neighborhood and worked together on two nonprofit organization boards from the mid-1990s to 2002. Ayers also hosted a meet-the-candidate event for Obama in 1995, when he first ran for the Illinois state Senate.

Biden on Friday never specifically mentioned Ayers or the new ad. But he said McCain is trying to avoid dealing with the nation's financial woes and is instead trying to "take the lowest road to the highest office in America."

A McCain campaign spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Biden urged voters to force the presidential campaign to focus on the economy, health care and other issues that directly affect their lives.

Recent polls show McCain and Obama are running about even in Missouri, which has voted for the presidential winner in all but one election over the last century.

The nation's financial problems have been felt in Missouri, where the unemployment rate is at its highest mark in 17 years. Many of those lost jobs have been in the manufacturing sector.

While Biden spoke in Missouri, the stock market continued a weeklong slide. By midafternoon, all the major indexes were down more than 5 percent.

Biden spoke on a sunny but windy day from a temporary stage erected in a city park near a minor league baseball stadium. The speech ended Biden's two-day swing through four Missouri cities located in counties that supported President Bush in 2004. Springfield is the home of GOP Gov. Matt Blunt, and the southwest corner of the state has historically been Republican territory.