October 8, 2008, 2:01 pm

Obama Back on the Trail

Obama, IndianapolisSenator Barack Obama spoke at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Wednesday in Indianapolis. (Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times)

INDIANAPOLIS – Fresh off Tuesday night's debate, Barack Obama was all smiles under storm clouds this afternoon at a rally here, as he told thousands of people that he could endure four more weeks of Republican attacks "but America can't take four more years of John McCain's Bush policies."

Mr. Obama had nothing to say about Mr. McCain's most acerbic aside at the debate ("that one," a reference to Mr. Obama), nor did he break any new policy ground on dealing with the economic concerns of average voters that were at the heart of the debate.

He laid out the problems facing the economy in detail and said "we all need to sacrifice," but he also sounded optimistic notes about better days ahead. He did not shed any light about the ongoing Wall Street problems, the stock market declines, or how he global economic crisis might affect his costly plans for universal health insurance, new public works and energy research jobs, or tax cuts for middle-class Americans.

Rather, this was a big boisterous rally in a Republican-leaning state where Mr. Obama is competing hard and opinion polls suggest a tight race. In his remarks here, Mr. Obama stressed big themes – and drew big applause – as he criticized Mr. McCain as bereft of ideas other than those championed by the Bush administration.

"In last night's debate, John McCain and I each had the chance to make the case for change – to talk about what we would do differently from the last eight years when it comes to lifting our middle-class, and growing our economy, and restoring our prosperity," Mr. Obama said. "But all we heard from Senator McCain was more of the same Bush economics that led us into this mess the first place."

The line drew one of the loudest boos of the afternoon from the crowd in the grandstand of the State Fairgrounds here. A top fire and safety official estimated the crowd size at 21,000, but several local reporters – noting that the grandstand was partially empty and did not fit that many people – said a more precise estimate was more than 12,000.

With Mr. McCain holding rallies this afternoon in Pennsylvania and Ohio with his running mate, Sarah Palin, Mr. Obama also did a bit of pre-emptive offense work by noting that the duo – and especially Ms. Palin – have been attacking him increasingly and personally on the campaign trail.

"He and Governor Palin are out there saying all kinds of stuff, and his campaign, McCain's campaign, said, and I quote – and I'm quoting here – 'if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose,' " Mr. Obama said to applause. "Well, I've got news for John McCain. This isn't about losing a campaign – this is about Americans who are losing their jobs, Americans who are losing their homes."

"I can take four more weeks of John McCain's attacks," he continued, "but America can't take four more years of John McCain's Bush policies."

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