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McCain targets Obama in final primary night

  • Story Highlights
  • Presumptive GOP nominee says he is the candidate of "right change"
  • He calls for "widespread and innovative reforms" in health care, energy, taxes
  • McCain accuses Obama of failing to withstand "partisan rancor"
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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain portrayed himself as the candidate of "right change" Tuesday night, as Sen. Barack Obama moved closer to becoming the Democratic candidate to challenge the presumptive GOP nominee in November.

Sen. John McCain compared his policies with those of Sen. Barack Obama in a speech Tuesday night.

"No matter who wins this election, the direction of this country is going to change dramatically. But the choice is between the right change and the wrong change, between going forward and going backward," he said.

In the speech, McCain drew upon themes from his campaign and contrasted them with those of the junior senator, citing his inexperience.

"The American people didn't get to know me yesterday, as they are just getting to know Sen. Obama," he said. "They know I have a long record of bipartisan problem-solving. They've seen me put our country before any president, before any party, before any special interest -- before my own interest."

McCain called for "widespread and innovative reforms" in health care, energy, the environment, taxes, public education, transportation, disaster relief, regulation, diplomacy and military and intelligence services. Video Watch McCain's case for change »

He called for government to "rethink, reform and reinvent" many of its policies and improve its ability to respond to "natural calamity," eliciting loud applause from the Louisiana audience.

McCain also he accused Obama of favoring policies that relied on government interference and failed policies from the past.

"The right change recognizes that many of the policies and institutions of our government have failed. They have failed to keep up with the challenges of our time because many of these policies were designed for the problems and opportunities of the mid- to late 20th century, before the end of the Cold War, before the revolution in information technology and rise of the global economy," he said.

McCain rejected the Democratic strategy to tie him to President Bush's policies, noting his opposition to Bush's initial policies in Iraq, his energy policy and his climate change policy.

He also referred to reports of success in Iraqi-led efforts to combat insurgency and cited statistics showing that the death toll for American troops in Iraq was at its lowest in four years.

"All of this progress would have been lost if Sen. Obama had his way and began to withdraw," McCain said.

McCain also accused Obama of not taking failing to stand up against "the partisan rancor" on both sides of the Senate floor.

"He is an impressive man who makes a great first impression," he said. "But he hasn't been willing to make the tough calls, to challenge his party, to risk criticism from his supporters to bring real change to Washington. I have."


Finally, McCain will call for Republicans and Democrats to work together.

"Pundits and party elders have declared that Sen. Obama will be my opponent," McCain said. "He will be a formidable one. But I'm ready for the challenge and determined to run this race in a way that does credit to our campaign and to the proud, decent and patriotic people I ask to lead."

CNN's Joe Johns contributed to this report.

All About Elections and VotingJohn McCainBarack Obama

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