Sen. Joe Biden starts Obama campaign's day in Missouri

ARNOLD, Mo. -- With dozens of laid-off autoworkers on stage behind him, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged Thursday to do more for the middle class if he and Barack Obama are elected to the White House.

Biden said the union autoworkers did right by their employer, but 2,400 in nearby Fenton, Mo., lost their jobs this fall in poor economic times. The workers at Chrysler's South Assembly Plant in Fenton rolled the last Dodge minivan off the assembly line Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule.

"At the end of the day, it's ultimately about jobs," he said.

Biden outlined ways the ticket would help the middle class -- cutting taxes for working people and small businesses, ending the nation's dependence on foreign oil and investing in the country's infrastructure.

He said ending the war in Iraq would help America reclaim respect in the world and help domestically.

"Stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq and spend it creating jobs here in the United States," he said.

Biden spoke to more than 500 people at Fox High School in Arnold, a suburb of St. Louis, and part of Jefferson County, where Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton got significantly more support in the primary than Obama.

But several audience members Thursday were enthusiastic supporters of the Obama ticket. They don't like the direction the country is headed and like Obama's ideas on the economy and health care.

Displaced autoworker Matthew Kinloch, 47, of Fenton, who worked for Chrysler for almost 25 years, called Biden's speech encouraging.

The married father of two said his family can survive for about six months without a paycheck, but said he's got to find some work. Kinloch, among those who shared the stage with Biden, felt Obama and Biden could make a difference in his life if elected.

"They're looking out for middle-class people," he said.

Ben Porritt, McCain campaign spokesman, criticized Obama for voting for the "pork-laced" Energy Bill from 2005 that was loaded with handouts for big oil companies.

"Barack Obama's record is no better on energy than it is on taxes which is why he is the most out of touch liberal in the United States Senate," Porritt said in a e-mailed statement.

McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, campaigning Thursday in Cape Girardeau, said McCain would fix the economy, lead America to victory in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and move toward energy independence.

Obama was scheduled to appear late Thursday in Columbia for a rally at the University of Missouri, to court young voters and residents of surrounding Boone County. The campaign announced Thursday that Obama and his wife, Michelle, also will hold a Saturday evening event in the Springfield area.

Missouri is on the radar of the two presidential campaigns because the contest here is expected to be close.

A recent poll conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and television station KMOV shows Obama and McCain about even among likely Missouri voters.