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Obama, McCain debate economy

The economy has emerged as the focus of the presidential campaign, given skyrocketing fuel prices, high job losses and rising food costs.

world Updated: Jul 08, 2008 22:22 IST

Democrat Barack Obama sought to link Republican rival John McCain to President George W Bush’s economic policies as the two presidential candidates manoeuvred for the upper hand on an issue that is of key concern of voters.

The economy, and especially its impact on the middle class, has emerged as the focus of the presidential campaign, given skyrocketing fuel prices, high job losses and rising food costs. It is a tough issue for Republicans, with Bush’s approval ratings at low levels after two terms in office.

Both were launching weeklong efforts to highlight their differences.

Obama said that McCain offers a third term of Bush’s policies. “John McCain’s policies are essentially a repeat, a regurgitation of what we’ve been hearing from the Republican Party over the last two decades, maybe three,” Obama said on Monday in St. Louis, where his plane made an unscheduled stop because of mechanical problems that forced him to cancel an appearance in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It’s part of the reason that we're in the situation that we find ourselves in right now.” McCain has been forced into a more defensive crouch because his party has held the White House while jobs, home values, stock prices and consumer confidence have tumbled.

While calling Obama’s plans expensive and unwise on Monday, he tried to distance himself from his fellow Republican Bush where he could.

“This Congress and this administration have failed to meet their responsibilities to manage the government,” McCain said in Denver. “Government has grown by 60 per cent in the last eight years. That is simply inexcusable.”

He promised to veto “every single bill with wasteful spending”. McCain has said the economy is not his strong suit, and on Monday he seemed eager to show a deeper understanding of the topic, even as he dismissed experts.

“Some economists don’t think much of my gas tax holiday,” he said of his plan to temporarily suspend the federal levy on motor fuels. “But the American people like it, and so do small business owners.”