BANGOR, Maine (AP) - Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, campaigning with an eye on winning at least one of Maine's electoral votes, criticized Democrat Barack Obama on Thursday for not disavowing a community activist group that registers voters.
The group known as ACORN-the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now-has drawn condemnation from the Republican ticket as its workers sign up voters in swing states. Nearly a dozen states and the FBI are looking into allegations of voter registration fraud.
ACORN officials have denied allegations of concerted, widespread fraud but acknowledge that some of the group's registration workers might have turned in duplicate applications or falsified information to pad their pay. ACORN says it it has registered 1.3 million young people, minorities, and poor and working-class voters.
"In this election, it's a choice between a candidate who won't disavow a group committing voter fraud, and a leader who won't tolerate voter fraud," Palin said.
In the debate Wednesday night with Republican John McCain, Obama denied any significant ties to ACORN. Earlier this week, Obama said ACORN was not advising his campaign and that registration problems shouldn't be used as an excuse to keep people from turning out.
Palin stuck to familiar themes of limited government, lower taxes and gun rights and listed energy and government reform among her top priorities. She said the people of Maine know that taxes-the state has some of the nation's highest-are not the way to "grow the economy."
Her visit came as the Republican National Committee has decided to stop running presidential ads in Maine to focus on usually Republican states where McCain shows signs of faltering. McCain is still running ads in the state.
Palin also made reference to a remark early in the campaign by Obama's wife, Michelle, who had said that "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country." The governor's comments came after country music star Lee Greenwood sang the "The Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless the USA."
"We believe also that there is a reason we all get teared-up when we hear Lee Greenwood sing about America, because we love America and we are always proud of being Americans," she said. "And we don't apologize for being Americans."
Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that allocate electoral votes in part by congressional district. Maine's 2nd Congressional District, with its lakes and forests, is popular for fishing, hunting and snowmobiling, pursuits shared by the Alaska governor herself.
"I feel like I'm at home," Palin told about 6,000 people in a hangar at the Bangor International Airport. "I see the Carhartts and the steel-toed boots ... and the NRA hats," she said, referring to the work clothes brand and the National Rifle Association.
In a close race, Republicans can't afford to write off a single electoral vote, and they hope that a strong showing in the 2nd District will help them sweep the entire state, where unenrolled or "independent" voters comprise the largest bloc of voters.
Maine last voted for a Republican for president in 1988, when Kennebunkport summer resident George H.W. Bush won the state. And political scientists say that's unlikely to change, even if McCain and Palin manage to carry the 2nd District.
Democrats have more than 30 offices set up across the state to promote Obama's presidential bid and other candidates, according to campaign officials.