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US Presidential Contenders Focus on Domestic Issues


Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama focused on economic concerns Tuesday. Obama was shifting his attention to domestic issues after his trip to the Middle East and Europe last week. McCain meanwhile took some encouragement from the latest public opinion poll, which shows him leading Obama. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the 2008 presidential campaign from Washington.

The polls have long indicated that voters are worried about the economy this year, and both major party presidential contenders are expected to focus on economic issues all this week.

Republican candidate McCain campaigned in Nevada and tried to reassure homeowners worried about high mortgage payments and the prospect of losing their homes.

"We have got to help people remain in their homes. And it has hit Nevada as much as any state in America. People are struggling to stay in their homes," he said.

McCain prefers town meeting-type forums where he answers questions from voters, including a young girl at the event in Nevada.

"If you were president, would you raise our taxes," she asked.

"No. I think the worst thing that could happen to America in these very tough economic times is to raise someone's taxes," he replied. "I will not do it."

McCain has vowed to keep President Bush's tax cuts in place, while Democrat Barack Obama opposes tax cuts for the wealthy and has promised to cut taxes for middle income Americans.

Obama spent Tuesday talking about the housing and mortgage problems with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Obama also held private talks with Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Obama's refocus on domestic economic issues comes after last week's international trip to the Middle East and Europe designed to bolster public confidence in his ability to lead U.S. foreign policy and be commander in chief of the armed forces.

Both Obama and McCain are also going through the largely private process of picking a vice presidential running mate.

Obama told NBC's Meet the Press that he is looking for someone who can advance an agenda of changing Washington politics.

"I am going to want somebody who shares a vision of the country where we need to go. That we have got to fundamentally change not only our policies, but how our politics works, how business is done in Washington," he said.

The Washington Post reports that Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is among those under consideration.

Kaine said it was flattering to be mentioned but said he would not talk about his conversations with the Obama campaign. "It is a very personal choice, and the only person who really knows the answer to that question is Senator Obama. He has to get briefed on everybody and he has to make that choice on his own," he said.

Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana and Joe Biden of Delaware are also being considered, according to the Post.

John McCain is reportedly considering a list that includes former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Ohio Congressman Rob Portman, among others.

McCain also got some encouragement in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll. McCain leads Obama by a margin of 47 to 44 percent, a departure from most recent polls that have given Obama a lead of anywhere from two to nine points.

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