WASHINGTON, August 7 – White House hopeful John McCain called for a policy "surge" to right the teetering US economy, but was scorned by his Democratic rival Barack Obama as a creature of Washington.
Obama savaged the Arizona senator\’s self-promotion as a "maverick" who could fix Washington\’s fractured politics, as the contenders returned to a war of words over energy policy at a time of sky-high fuel prices.
McCain, despite new polls that showed Obama leading on the economy, insisted he had the right approach to stem a tidal wave of job losses and home foreclosures.
"Our surge has succeeded in Iraq militarily. Now we need an economic surge to keep jobs here at home and create new ones," the Republican said at a kitchen cabinet factory in the distressed state of Ohio.
McCain called for lower business taxes, new markets for US goods abroad, lower healthcare costs and for an assault on "out-of-control spending" by the government and Congress.
He said Obama\’s plan would raise taxes on business, income and investment and reinforced the point with a new television spot that asked: "Is the biggest celebrity in the world ready to help your family?"
"This is exactly the wrong strategy," McCain said. "Raising taxes in a bad economy is about the worst thing you can do because it will kill even more jobs when what we need are policies that create jobs."
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll said Obama was, by a 54-43 percent margin, seen as the better choice to fix the faltering economy, which was well ahead of the Iraq war as voters\’ top concern.
Another poll by Time magazine gave Obama a 43-39 percent edge on the economy, and an overall lead in the presidential race of five points — 46 percent to 41. CBS News had Obama on 45 percent overall to McCain\’s 39 percent.
Obama Wednesday addressed a "town hall" meeting in Indiana in the company of one of the state\’s US senators, Evan Bayh, who is being touted as a possible running mate for the Democrat.
Obama said he agreed with McCain\’s recent assertion that America\’s dependence on foreign oil had been caused by the failure of Washington politicians to think for the long-term over the past 30 years.
"What Senator McCain neglected to mention was that during those 30 years, he was in Washington for 26 of them," he said, reprising McCain\’s assertion the nation has made "great progress economically" under President George W. Bush.
The Democrat also ridiculed McCain\’s energy policy as an "early Christmas list for oil and gas lobbyists," and noted that the Republican had now agreed with him on the need for drivers to properly inflate their tires to save fuel.
Obama had said last week that if every US vehicle had fully inflated tires, the country could free up as much oil as by resorting to McCain\’s controversial proposal to drill for energy offshore.
That prompted a satirical savaging from the McCain camp, which has taken to handing out tire gauges to mockingly sum up Obama\’s energy policy.
But in a question-and-answer session with voters conducted by telephone late Tuesday, McCain himself invoked the recommendation of the American Automobile Association for tires to be pumped up.
"Which makes sense because it turns out NASCAR, which knows something about tires, apparently said the same thing, so did the AAA, and so in the coming days it is going to be interesting to watch this debate between John McCain and John McCain," Obama said to guffaws.
McCain\’s senior economic adviser, Doug Holtz-Eakin, accused Obama of making "false claims" about the Republican\’s energy policy as the two campaigns slugged it out for a third day on an issue of burning interest to voters.
But Obama spokesman Bill Burton asked: "Is the biggest proponent of George Bush\’s tired, failed policies ready to bring about change?"