Oct. 21, 2008 -- The mood was spirited at Sen. Barack Obama's various Florida campaign events today. But behind the scenes, Obama is going through a tough time as he prepares to leave the campaign trail to visit his ailing grandmother.
But that didn't stop him from continuing to challenge Sen. John McCain's reaction to the nation's economic crisis.
At a Palm Beach community college this morning, 1,700 people crammed into a small gymnasium for Obama's economic roundtable with experts and four governors of battleground states.
The panelists included Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, an Obama campaign adviser.
Obama used the roundtable to continue tying McCain to President Bush and to portray his rival as out of touch with the American people's economic woes.
"While President Bush and Sen. McCain were ready to move heaven and earth to address the crisis on Wall Street, the president has failed to address the crisis on Main Street — and Sen. McCain has failed to fully acknowledge it. Instead of common sense solutions, month after month, they've offered little more than willful ignorance, wishful thinking, and outdated ideology."
Strickland, who said that Ohio's economy was "suffering from the Bush administration policies," issued a strong vote of confidence to the Illinois senator.
"I was in the same community where Joe the Plumber lives, and I met Shawn the ironworker yesterday," Strickland said. "He said, 'you tell Sen. Obama Shawn the ironworker is building a bridge for him to the White House.'"
Obama Hits Back on Socialism Charge
Obama pushed back on McCain's charge that his tax proposal is welfare or somehow socialist because some people will receive tax cuts even if they don't make enough to pay income taxes. Obama noted that his tax credits would go to people who pay payroll taxes -- something his campaign has argued costs working people more than income tax.
"What he's confusing is the fact that, even if you don't pay income tax, there are a lot of people who don't pay income tax, you're still paying a whole lot of other taxes. You're paying payroll, which is a huge burden on a lot of middle income families. You're paying sales taxes, you're paying property taxes," Obama said.
Last week McCain called Obama's tax credit plan "another government giveaway," and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has gone even further, telling the press recently that "now is not the time to experiment with socialism."
Obama Leaves the Trail to Visit Grandmother
Obama made no mention of his decision to scrap plans to campaign in Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio later in the week to fly to Hawaii to be by the bedside of the grandmother who helped raise him. Eighty-five-year-old Madelyn Dunham has been ill for much of the year, and her health took a turn for the worse after a recent hospital stay for a broken hip.
His grandmother has clearly been in Obama's thoughts. He mentions her frequently on the stump, more than his own parents. In his August speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president, he alluded to the fact that she was ill.
"She's the one who taught me about hard work, she's the one who put off buying a new car or new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night, as well," he said.
Despite a brief appearance in a campaign ad, Dunham has had a low profile during this campaign. Obama's August visit to Hawaii was made largely so he could see her.
Obama told reporters on the plane to Hawaii that he hadn't seen his grandmother in 18 or 19 months.
"You know, who's getting to the age where I want to make sure that I'm spending time with her on a consistent basis, and so that she could see her great grandchildren," Obama said.
Citing privacy considerations, the Obama campaign will not disclose precisely what is wrong with Dunham, but they say the fact that Obama is leaving the campaign trail in these last two weeks to see her underscores just how serious her illness is.
ABC News' Andy Fies, Sunlen Miller, and Julia Hoppock contributed to this report