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Palin details plan for special-needs kids

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Tom Ridge clarifies remarks on John McCain and Pennsylvania
  • Sarah Palin gives policy address in Pennsylvania on special-needs kids
  • McCain ad uses Joe Biden's words over images of terrorists, dictators
  • Barack Obama in Hawaii visiting his ailing grandmother, will return to trail Saturday
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(CNN) -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin elaborated Friday on how a McCain administration would help children with special needs and took aim at Sen. Barack Obama's tax policies on families.

Palin, speaking in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, suburb, unveiled a three-point plan that she said would expand educational choice for parents, increase funding for children with disabilities and improve services available to parents, medical professionals and schools.

"Even the best public school teacher or administrator really cannot rightfully take the place of a parent making these choices," said Palin, whose youngest child, a son named Trig, has Down syndrome.

"The schools feel responsible for the education of many children, but a parent alone is responsible for the life of each child and how to make that life better."

Under the plan, federal money would be used to help parents send their children to a public, private or religious school of their choice, according to the campaign.

Palin also criticized Obama's tax plan.

"Understandably then many families with special-needs children or dependent adults, they're concerned about ... our opponent in this election, who plans to raise taxes on precisely these kinds of financial arrangements," she said.

"They fear that Sen. Obama's tax increase will have serious and harmful consequences, and they're right, because the burden that his plan would pose upon these families is just one more example of how many plans can be disrupted and how many futures can be placed at risk and how many people can suffer when the power to tax is misused."

The Obama campaign called the attack hypocritical.

"This is a blatantly false, desperate political attack made by a campaign that's out of touch, out of ideas and running out of time," said Sean Smith, a spokesman for the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania. "Sen. Obama has consistently been clear that he would not increase taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year."

Palin also proposed expanding funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was signed into law in 1975 but has never been fully funded. The McCain campaign estimates that fully funding the program would cost an additional $45 billion over five years, money that Palin said could be found by cutting federal pork barrel spending.

"We've got a $3 trillion budget in this country," she said. "And Congress spends some $18 billion on earmarks for their political pet projects, and that right there is more than the shortfall to fully fund IDEA."

Pennsylvania is on the list of battleground states for the McCain camp.

On Friday, Pennsylvania's former governor said that if he were on the Republican ticket, the road to the White House might have been a less bumpy one.

"I think the dynamics would be different in Pennsylvania," Tom Ridge, the McCain campaign's national co-chairman, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in an interview published Friday. "I think we'd be foolish not to admit it publicly."

In a statement issued by the McCain campaign later Friday, Ridge said his remarks had been misconstrued.

"I was asked a question, and I delivered an honest answer that was taken completely out of context. I wholeheartedly believe that John McCain made the right choice by selecting Sarah Palin to join him on the ticket," he said.

"As a former two-time governor of Pennsylvania, I was simply making the point that, of course, the dynamics of the race in Pennsylvania would be different if the former governor of Pennsylvania were on the ticket. The dynamics of the race would be different in Florida if Gov. [Charlie] Crist were on the ticket. ... I have stated many times, as I did today, that I believe John made an excellent choice and that Gov. Palin will make a great vice president. I have witnessed firsthand the excitement she has generated in Pennsylvania and throughout America, and I believe she will help deliver our commonwealth's 21 electoral votes to our GOP ticket this November 4."

The former homeland security secretary, who reportedly was on McCain's vice presidential short list, said the senator from Arizona "had several good choices, and I was one of them."

But he said that the Palin selection was a "typical, bold McCain-like choice" and that the perception that she has been a drag on his chances was likely because "she's been hammered by the pundits."

McCain and Palin have spent the race's waning days re-enacting Sen. Hillary Clinton's strategy during the Democratic primaries, reaching out to working-class white voters in the rural and western parts of Pennsylvania.

"Unless we win Pennsylvania, I don't think [McCain] is elected president," Ridge told the Tribune-Review.

Meanwhile, McCain's campaign released an ad Friday invoking Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, who said this week that the world will soon test "Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy."

The ad plays heavily edited clips of Biden's remarks over images of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as well as stock videos of tanks, terrorists and a crying child.

"Listen to Joe Biden, talking about what electing Barack Obama will mean," the ad begins before introducing Biden's words from Sunday: "Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama. ... The world is looking. ... We're going to have an international crisis ... to test the mettle of this guy. ... I guarantee you it's going to happen."

The ad concludes, "It doesn't have to happen. Vote McCain." Video Watch a report on the mud being slung »

The McCain campaign said it will be putting the ad on airwaves in 14 battleground states.

The ad comes a day after McCain spent the day addressing economic issues on the campaign trail in Florida and as Obama takes a campaigning hiatus to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii.

Obama, who leads McCain 51 percent to 42 percent, according to Thursday's CNN poll of polls, will be replaced by his wife, Michelle Obama. She will fill in for the Democratic presidential candidate in Columbus and Akron, two stops in the battleground state of Ohio.

McCain is visiting Colorado, a state that President Bush won in 2000 and 2004. The most recent CNN poll of polls shows Obama leading McCain there 50 percent to 44 percent.

McCain has events scheduled in Denver, Colorado Springs and Durango. Durango is on the border with New Mexico, where Obama leads by 5 percentage points, according to the most recent Research & Polling Inc. survey conducted for the Albuquerque Journal.

Biden and Palin have both made stops in Colorado this week, and Obama will campaign there Sunday. Video Watch what's next for the candidates »

Obama campaigned Thursday in Indiana. He then flew to Honolulu, Hawaii, to spend the day with his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, whose health is deteriorating after she suffered a broken hip. He traveled directly to her home from the airport.

Obama said in an interview for Friday's "Good Morning America" that Dunham has been "inundated" with flowers and messages from strangers who read about her in Obama's 1995 book, "Dreams from My Father."

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"Maybe she is getting a sense of long-deserved recognition toward the end of her life," he said.

Obama resumes campaigning Saturday with visits to three Western states. The campaign has not specified which states, but New Mexico is expected to be among them.

CNN's Peter Hamby, Ed Hornick and Rebecca Sinderbrand contributed to this report.

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