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Obama, McCain Exchange Jabs on Economic Plans

October 21, 2008 at 6:15 PM EDT
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As Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama stump through battleground states, their remaining efforts to shore up votes include exchanging jabs on economic policy and readiness for the presidency. Kwame Holman reports on the latest campaign developments.

RAY SUAREZ: The candidates campaign in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Florida. NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman reports.

KWAME HOLMAN: Republican nominee John McCain kicked off a three-stop tour of Pennsylvania today with a rally in Bensalem, near Philadelphia.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: My friends, it’s great to be here in Pennsylvania. We need to win in Pennsylvania on November the 4th. And with your help — with your help, we’re going to win.

KWAME HOLMAN: McCain sought to bring the focus of the campaign back to national security by raising comments made by Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden over the weekend.

At a Seattle fundraiser on Sunday, Biden said, “Mark my words: It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama, like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember, I said it standing here. If you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis to test the mettle of this guy.”

McCain seized on those remarks to support his case that Obama isn’t ready to be president.

McCain assails Obama's readiness

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: The next president won't have time to get used to the office. We face many challenges here at home -- you know that -- and many enemies abroad in this dangerous world.

Now, this weekend, as Lindsey mentioned, Sen. Biden guaranteed that, if Sen. Obama is elected, we will have an international crisis to test America's new president.

We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars.

What is more troubling -- even more troubling than that is that Sen. Biden told campaign donors that, when that crisis hit, they would have to stand with them, because it wouldn't be apparent that Sen. Obama would have the right response.

Forget -- forget apparent. Forget apparent. We know Sen. Obama won't have the right response.

KWAME HOLMAN: McCain also took aim at Obama's tax plan yet again, arguing the Democrat's numbers simply don't add up.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: And you might ask, how do you cut income taxes for 95 percent of Americans when more than 40 percent pay no income taxes right now? How do you reduce the number zero?

Well, that's the key to his whole plan. Since you can't reduce income taxes on those who pay zero, the government will write them all checks called a tax credit. And the Treasury -- and the Treasury will have to cover those checks by taxing other people.

In other words, Sen. Obama's plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others, it isn't a tax cut. It's just another government giveaway. We've seen too much of that already in America, my friends.

Obama takes on McCain's charges

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama responded directly to that criticism in Lake Worth, Fla., this afternoon.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: What Sen. McCain lately has also been suggesting is that somehow I'm not -- I'm going to take money from people making over $250,000 and giving it to people who pay, quote, "no taxes." He's been citing this -- this -- this statistic.

What he's confusing is the fact that, even if you don't pay income tax -- there are a lot of people who don't pay income tax -- you're still paying a whole lot of other taxes.

You're paying payroll tax, which is a huge burden on a lot of middle-income families. You're paying sales taxes. You're paying property taxes. There are a whole host of taxes that you're paying.

So when we provide an offset to people who are -- you know, to the waitress or the janitor, these folks are working. This isn't some giveaway to people on welfare. This is giving help to people who are working hard every day so that they've got a chance to live out the American dream, too.

Obama promises change

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama dubbed the Florida event a Growing American Jobs Summit. He was joined by four Democratic governors from battleground states, business executives, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, an adviser to the campaign.

In opening remarks, Obama took on McCain's charge that his tax proposals are an effort to redistribute wealth.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: You know, it's funny. Yesterday, I heard Sen. McCain say I'm more concerned with who gets your piece of the pie than with growing the pie.

But make no mistake about it: After eight years of Bush-McCain economics, the pie is shrinking. It's not growing. That means lower wages and declining incomes, plummeting home values, rising unemployment.

So we've seen what happens with their policies. We've had an eight-year experiment. We see where it leads. This economic crisis is the final verdict on that failed leadership; it is time to try something new.

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama will campaign tomorrow in Virginia, while McCain stumps in New Hampshire and Ohio.