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Campaign fixed on economy

Virginia, October 13 – The US presidential campaign settled into a straight fight on the economy Monday as global financial turmoil focused both candidates on how to help Americans worried about their future.

Republican nominee John McCain is working on a new economic plan based on lowering taxation for investors and refinancing mortgage debt for ordinary homeowners in a bid to remove negative equity, an adviser announced.

"I think it goes along the lines that now is the time to lower tax rates for investors, capital gains tax, dividend tax rates, to make sure that we can get the economy jump-started," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close political ally and adviser to McCain, told CBS\’s "Face the Nation" program Sunday.

"It will be a very comprehensive approach to jump-start the economy by allowing capital to be formed easier in America by lowering taxes," Graham added.

He said the McCain plan would include measures to help homeowners — saying that under the plan, Americans would not owe to banks more than their home is worth now and would be given a fixed mortgage rate to help them make monthly payments.

"I think that is a very wise move at this time," Graham said without disclosing when the plan would be unveiled.

Meanwhile, McCain himself vowed to "whip" Democrat Barack Obama in Wednesday\’s final presidential debate, defying doom-laden assessments of his campaign.

McCain on Sunday gave a pep talk to campaign workers in Washington\’s Virginia suburbs, as he plotted a comeback in the presidential race against Democrat Obama, just over three weeks from the election on November 4.

The Arizona senator said he and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin were criss-crossing battleground states and would intensify their efforts after the debate in New York state on Wednesday.

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"So we\’re spending a lot of time and after I whip his you-know-what in this debate, we\’re going to be going out," McCain said.

McCain spoke after several conservative pundits on Sunday television talk shows gave unflattering assessments of his campaign.

Some key Republicans in battleground states were also quoted in a New York Times article as lambasting his performance, with Obama enjoying leads in national and battleground polls.

McCain also told his supporters that he wanted a "respectful" campaign after he had to intervene at a rally last week to tone down abusive rhetoric against Obama.

Opinion polls conducted by television networks after the first two debates have suggested that a majority of voters believe Obama won both encounters, putting even more pressure on McCain on Wednesday.

On the Democratic side, Hillary and Bill Clinton Sunday launched a campaign blitz in Pennsylvania\’s blue-collar heartland — seen as pivotal to the White House race — beseeching their supporters to make Obama president.

The couple, making their first double-barrelled campaign appearance for Obama in Scranton, dominated Democratic politics for a generation, but now are supporting players, after reconciling Hillary Clinton\’s bitter nominating defeat.

"This election is too important to sit on the sidelines of history," said the former first lady, calling on her legions of working class and women voters to take up the banner of the man who beat her.

"It took a Democratic president to clean up after the last president Bush, it\’s going to take a Democratic president to clean up after this President Bush," Clinton said in a working-class corner of swing-state Pennsylvania.

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The Clintons teamed up with Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden, a native of Scranton and a man with working-class roots, just 23 days before the presidential election.

Biden paid tribute to both Clintons and portrayed himself and Obama as the natural inheritors of their political legacy.

Most polls show Obama with a handy lead in Pennsylvania, but the McCain campaign, especially Palin, is making a hard push for social conservative swing voters.

Hillary Clinton won a stunning 18 million votes in her six-month coast-to-coast nominating showdown with Obama, so she is set to play a vital role in the closing days of the election.

The sudden deepening of the financial crisis has boosted Obama\’s ratings and polls show that more voters trust him to fix the economy than McCain — a factor powering the Democrat\’s growing advantage in battleground states.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey Monday said Obama now leads McCain by 53 percent to 43 percent.

Clinton was due to campaign for Obama in Philadelphia, Pennsyvlania on Monday and then head to West Virginia and Arkansas, and was expected to be on the trail in a long pre-election run.

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