Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama on Wednesday refuted attacks by Republican rival John McCain that he was advocating socialism by wanting to raise taxes on the wealthier, saying the McCain campaign was grasping at desperate straws.
Over the past week, McCain, 72, who is lagging behind Obama in the backstretch to the November 4 elections, has drawn enthusiastic "boos" from supporters whenever he mentions that Obama wants to "spread the wealth".
In a radio address Saturday he likened Obama to Europe's "Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent".
Running mate Sarah Palin has gone so far as to say Obama wants socialism because he wants to cancel the tax cuts put through under the Bush administration for people earning more than $250,000 a year. Instead, Obama wants to give tax breaks to the broad middle and working class.
In Florida, Republican Senator Mel Martinez, a Cuban immigrant, has even compared Obama's plan to the communism of Cuba and Fidel Castro.
Obama said the McCain campaign's use of such "implausible" arguments was an "indication they have run out of ideas".
He pointed to McCain's own opposition to President George W Bush's proposed tax cuts for the wealthy during the 2000 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
"Was John McCain a socialist in 2000" for opposing Bush's ideas? Obama asked.
Obama, 47, was answering questions after delivering a speech on foreign policy in Richmond, Virginia.