Republican presidential nominee John McCain on Monday sought to assure supporters he can come from behind to defeat Democrat Barack Obama, who proposed new ways to address the economic turmoil.
"My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them," McCain told rallies in Virginia and North Carolina as he tried to breathe new life into his campaign after a two-week tailspin due largely to his reaction to the U.S. financial crisis.
He distanced himself from unpopular President George W. Bush, saying: "We cannot spend the next four years as we have spent much of the last eight: waiting for our luck to change."
With three weeks to go until the November 4 Election Day, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll had McCain down 10 points to Obama, 53 percent to 43 percent, and showed him stalling or losing ground on a range of issues.
A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Monday showed Obama with a 4-point lead among likely voters. An average of recent polls by realclearpolitics.com has Obama up 6.8 points.
In Toledo, Ohio, Obama proposed four steps to create jobs and to cushion Americans against the effects of the economic downturn as he campaigned in an area hit hard by the slowdown.
Some analysts described Obama’s proposals as modest, but they underscored his campaign’s sharp focus on economic concerns and the country’s financial crisis.
The Illinois senator has surged based on his steady response to the Wall Street crash, with polls showing he is more trusted by Americans to handle economic issues, and McCain’s standing has suffered as a consequence.
"We have 22 days to go. We’re 6 points down. The national media has written us off. Senator Obama is measuring the drapes," McCain told thousands of cheering supporters in Virginia Beach, joined by his vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin.
Obama’s proposals, costing $60 billion over two years, include tax credits for firms that create new jobs, penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts and temporarily barring banks from foreclosing on people trying to pay their mortgages.
"We can restore a sense of fairness and balance that will give every American a fair shot at the American dream. And above all, we can restore confidence — confidence in America, confidence in our economy, and confidence in ourselves," he said.
DISPLEASURE AT TACTICS
Many Republican supporters are expressing displeasure at the McCain campaign’s negative tactics, after a week in which his camp tried to raise doubts about Obama by emphasizing his ties to a former 1960s left-wing radical.
"It’s time for John McCain to fire his campaign," conservative columnist William Kristol wrote in The New York Times.
He said the Arizona senator’s handlers should "let McCain go back to what he’s been good at in the past — running as a cheerful, open and accessible candidate."
McCain unveiled a new stump speech that reprised some of the themes from his September speech accepting his party’s nomination — that he has been a fighter all his life and would be ready on his first day as president tackle the problems of the U.S. economy and foreign policy challenges.
"The hour is late; our troubles are getting worse; our enemies watch. We have to act immediately. We have to change direction now. We have to fight, and you and I know how to do that," he said.
McCain avoided the kind of divisive rhetoric that he employed last week, although he accused Obama of conspiring with the two top Democrats in the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to raise taxes in order to pay for ambitious spending plans.
"The last president to raise taxes and restrict trade in a bad economy as Senator Obama proposes was Herbert Hoover," McCain said, referring to the 1930s Depression-era president. "That didn’t turn out too well."
McCain stopped short of detailing new economic proposals to show concern for millions of Americans seeing their savings vanish in the Wall Street meltdown. Aides said he is considering plans along the lines of lowering tax rates for investors, the capital gains tax on profits, and dividend tax rates.
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed; writing by Steve Holland; editing by Chris Wilson)