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Obama Rallies for Bailout in Wisc.

LA CROSSE, Wisc.- Speaking to a rally on Main Street here, Sen. Barack Obama touted a “rescue plan” to help workers, homeowners and taxpayers on Main Streets across the country.

Obama tried to allay concerns about the financial bailout plan, saying it was essential to avoid a “crisis from turning into a catastrophe.” Reminding voters that he will return to Washington after the rally to vote on the bill, Obama urged Congress that “the time to act is now,” drawing only weak applause.

“If we do have losses, I’ve proposed a Financial Stability Fee on the financial-services industry so Wall Street foots the bill -– not the American taxpayer,” Obama said to a smattering of applause. It’s a new line in his stump speech, responding to criticisms that taxpayers could lose most of the $700 billion invested in a bailout. “And as I modernize the financial system to create new rules of the road to prevent another crisis, we will continue this fee to build up a reserve — so that if this happens again, it will be the money contributed by banks that’s put at risk,” he said.

Obama also promised to cut federal spending by targeting tax loopholes, applying “pay as you go budgeting” like President Bill Clinton, and ending the war in Iraq — a pledge that drew the loudest applause of the morning.

Turning to taxes, Obama asked for a show of hands of who made less than a a quarter-million dollars a year. Facing the nearly unanimous set of hands, Obama pledged to cut their taxes, and urged them not to listen to false advertising that said otherwise.

In his closing, Obama recounted great moments in American history, from defeating prejudice to overcoming the Great Depression, and likened those moments to the prospect of rescuing the economy and winning the election.

Compared to the events I’ve seen Obama do this week, this speech sounded rushed and brittle. The campaign rescheduled an afternoon trip to Michigan, in order to give Obama the time to fly to Washington and vote on the bailout; and an aide said he may do some TV interviews on the topic this afternoon. So Obama may have the rest of the day on his mind.

There’s more riding on his performance in Washington than on a stump speech in Wisconsin.

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