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The Charleston Gazette - Obama Pushes for New GI Bill

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The Charleston Gazette - Obama Pushes for New GI Bill

Ill. senator predicts state will go for Clinton

On the day before West Virginia's primary election, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama called for passage of the new GI bill Monday in Charleston, while taking a jab at U.S. Sen. John McCain - his likely opponent in the fall presidential election - for refusing to support it.

The proposed 21st Century GI Bill would allow soldiers to receive free tuition for college. Obama said it is one of a number of upgrades to GI benefits and healthcare the federal government should provide.

"It would provide every returning veteran with a real chance to afford a college education, and it would not harm retention," Obama told about 1,500 people at the Charleston Civic Center. After that, he stopped to shoot a game of pool with a veteran at a South Charleston pub.

The Illinois Democrat said McCain, whom he added he greatly respects as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, doesn't like the new plan.

"He is one of the few senators of either party who oppose this bill because he thinks it's too generous," Obama said. "I couldn't disagree more.

"At a time when the skyrocketing cost of tuition is pricing thousands of Americans out of a college education, we should be doing everything we can to give the men and women who have risked their lives for this country the chance to pursue the American dream."

Obama faces Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., in today's primary election. Every poll has shown Clinton will win by a large number in the state, and Obama acknowledged that will probably happen.

"I think [former president Bill] Clinton said 80 percent, so we'll take him at his word," he said later Monday.

Hillary Clinton has brought her husband and her daughter Chelsea to campaign for her across West Virginia. They have all encouraged a heavy turnout and big victory to help her stay in the race.

For Obama, Monday marked just his second trip to West Virginia this year and his first since March 20.

"I'm honored that some of you will support me, and I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton," he told the crowd at the Civic Center.

"But when it's over, what will unify us as Democrats - what must unify us as Americans - is an unyielding commitment to the men and women who've served this nation and an unshakable fidelity to the ideals for which they've risked their lives."

A short time later, Obama went to Schultzie's Billiards to shoot a game of pool with veteran Paul Scott of Charleston.

Being interviewed by a crowd of national news media reporters, Scott said he is a supporter of Obama's. "This is cool," he said, after beating the senator in the game.

At one point Obama made a combination shot.

"That's the sign of a misspent youth," he said with a smile. "Obviously, I wasn't doing wholesome things like bowling."

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