Republican presidential nominee John McCain has suffered a jolt with the co-chairman of his campaign quitting saying criticism against his recent remarks that the US had become a nation of whiners was "distracting" the party's bid for the White House.
Phil Gramm, who stepped down as McCain campaign's co-chairman, had said last week that "we have sort of become a nation of whiners."
Democrats had blasted Gramm, a former Republican Senator, for the comments, made in a Washington Times interview, and McCain had forcefully repudiated the remarks.
In a statement, Gramm said his comments had become a distraction for the 71 year-old Vietnam war veteran, McCain, who is pitted against his Democratic rival, Barack Obama in the November 4 election.
"It is clear to me that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Senator McCain on important economic issues facing the country," Gramm was quoted as saying by CNN.
"That kind of distraction hurts not only Senator McCain's ability to present concrete programmes to deal with the country's problems, it hurts the country."
Gramm, who advised McCain on economic matters, made the controversial comments while discussing the economy.
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline," the former Texas senator said. "You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession."