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Candidates Seek Economic Leadership Role as Election Nears

October 13, 2008 at 6:10 PM EDT
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Two days before the third presidential election, the presidential contenders spotlighted the economy as John McCain distanced himself from President Bush's financial policies and Barack Obama introduced a new economic rescue plan. Kwame Holman reports on the latest from the campaign trail.

KWAME HOLMAN: Sarah Palin and John McCain took the stage before a large and enthusiastic crowd in Virginia Beach, Virginia, this morning. Their message was upbeat, despite polls showing the Republicans are falling further behind Democrats Obama and Biden.

McCain focused on his own credentials and on distancing himself from eight years of the Bush administration.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): We cannot spend the next four years as we have spent much of the last eight, waiting for our luck to change. The hour is late; our troubles are getting worse; our enemies watch.

We have to act immediately. We have to change direction now. And we have to fight.

If I’m elected president, I won’t spend nearly a trillion dollars more of your money on top of the $700 billion we just gave the Treasury secretary, as Senator Obama proposes. He can’t spend that much without raising your taxes or digging us further into debt. I’m going to make government live on a budget just like you do.

KWAME HOLMAN: A new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows McCain trailing Obama by 10 points, a gap no candidate in modern history has overcome this close to an election. But McCain declared the presidential race is far from over.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: We have 22 days to go. We’re 6 points down. The national media has written us off.

Senator Obama — Senator Obama is measuring the drapes.

You know what they forgot? They forgot to let you decide.

My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them.

KWAME HOLMAN: In the ABC poll, 59 percent of respondents said the Republicans were campaigning negatively instead of addressing issues.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I know you’re worried. America is a great country, but we’re in a moment of national crisis that will determine our future.

Will we continue to lead the world’s economies or will we be overtaken? Will the world become safer or more dangerous? Will our military remain the strongest in the world? Will our children and grandchildren’s future be brighter than ours?

My answer to you is yes. Yes, we will lead.

Obama sticks to economy in Ohio

KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, Barack Obama chose tightly contested Ohio to lay out new plans for the economy.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: The typical Ohio family has seen their income fall $2,500, and it's getting harder and harder to make the mortgage, or fill up the gas tank, or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month.

At this rate, the question isn't just, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" It's, "Are you better off than you were four weeks ago?"

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama's multi-point program has, at its center, increasing employment.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: It's a plan that begins with one word that's on everybody's mind, and it's easy to spell: J-O-B-S, jobs. We've got to work on jobs.

We've already lost 750,000 jobs this year. Some experts say that unemployment may rise to 8 percent by the end of next year. We can't wait until then to start creating new jobs. That's why I'm proposing to give our businesses a new American job tax credit.

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama also called for a three-month moratorium on some home foreclosures and for moving up to this year tax cuts he proposed for middle-income filers.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: We can't wait to provide real and immediate relief to families who are worried not only about paying this month's bills, but their entire life savings.

And this plan will help ease those anxieties. And along with the other economic policies I've proposed, it will begin to create new jobs, grow family incomes, and put us back on the path to prosperity.

KWAME HOLMAN: The candidates continue to concentrate their activity in a dozen battleground states. According to a new analysis, frontrunner Obama far surpassed McCain in time and money spent in those states in recent weeks.