Biden Rips McCain During Bus Tour of Eastern Ohio

WARREN, Ohio (AP) - Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday criticized Republican John McCain's new stump speech, saying it lacked fresh ideas and was full of the same negativity toward Barack Obama.

Biden, speaking at the first stop on a two-day bus tour of eastern and central Ohio cities hit hard by the economic meltdown, contended that McCain has nothing to offer the financially distressed nation.

"What did John McCain do? He laid out some new attacks on Barack Obama," Biden said, then shouted, "The distinction could not be clearer - one guy is fighting for you and the other guy is fighting mad."

The crowd of about 1,000 high school students and union members cheered every Biden applause line, but didn't come close to filling the amphitheater to capacity.

The park-like setting in Warren's downtown differed starkly from the city's outskirts, littered with boarded-up restaurants, closed gas stations and half-vacant shopping plazas.

Warren sits in the heart of a three-county region that is about to be made part of Appalachia by the federal government. The designation will allow the economically depressed area to receive assistance from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Biden proposed immediate aid for people's financial hardships: a moratorium on foreclosures, a $1,000 rebate to help homeowners with heating costs, and penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts.

"John has nothing new to offer," Biden said. "That's why you're seeing John McCain's campaign becoming so erratic."

McCain proposed on Tuesday that the government eliminate taxes on unemployment benefits as part of a $52.5 billion economic plan to address the nation's financial crisis. He also proposed lowering the tax rate on Individual Retirement Accounts and 401(k) plans.

Biden told the Warren audience that there's a fundamental difference between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin.

"Brains!" someone in the audience shouted.

Biden laughed and the crowd cheered.

"Maybe I should stop here," Biden chuckled.

Biden was to attend rallies in two other Appalachian Ohio cities on Tuesday. His next stop was Ohio University's eastern campus in St. Clairsville. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin campaigned Sunday in the small city near the West Virginia border, telling the crowd that Obama doesn't understand such places.

Biden will end Tuesday's leg of the tour in downtown Marietta. On Wednesday, he will attend community gatherings in Athens, Lancaster and Newark.