Political campaigns in the U.S. often pick up new themes as the situation, and political opportunity, change. New turmoil in the financial industry, and its reverberation in American households, has prompted Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain to put greater emphasis on the economy than before. And his rival, Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama, is mocking McCain's newfound stance. VOA's Jeffrey Young reports.
September 15 was a shattering day on Wall Street. One major investment house collapsed. Another was unexpectedly sold. The stock market plunged.
Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, at his first Monday campaign appearance in Jacksonville, in the southeastern state of Florida, noted the market's jitters but expressed his usual confidence. "Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong but these are very, very difficult times," McCain said.
Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama, campaigning in Golden, in the mountain state of Colorado, jumped on McCain's remark with a stinging rebuke. "Senator McCain, what economy are you talking about?," Obama questioned. "What is more fundamental than knowing that your life savings are secure? What is more fundamental than knowing you will have a roof over your head at the end of the day?"
While the stock market continued to fall, McCain later that day in Orlando, Florida changed his tune. "The American economy is in a crisis," he said. "It is in a crisis."
And McCain also revised his earlier remark on the economy's fundamentals, many say redefining the term. "My opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals - the American worker, the innovation, the entrepreneurship, the small business - those are the fundamentals of America, and I think they are strong," McCain said.
On Tuesday, the Obama campaign quickly produced a TV ad mocking their rival:
"September 15, 2008. And John McCain says?"
McCAIN: "Our economy, I think, still - the fundamentals of our economy are strong"
"How can John McCain fix the economy - if he doesn't understand it's broken?"
Obama also took McCain to task for his and his party's long standing support of financial deregulation. "What Senator McCain said yesterday fits with the same economic philosophy that he has had for 26 years," Obama said. "It is the philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down. It is the philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise."
John McCain then took a new course during an appearance in Tampa, in the state of Florida, calling for a tighter government regulatory leash. He slammed bankers, calling them reckless and irresponsible with the public's investments. "Many leaders in finance have proven unworthy of that trust," McCain said. "Government has a clear responsibility to act in defense of the public interest. And, that is exactly what I intend to do."
The McCain campaign then backed up his newfound position with a TV ad: "My opponent's only solutions are talk and taxes. I will reform Wall Street and fix Washington. I have taken on tougher guys than this before."
But, while the two presidential candidates bash each other, the head of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, Fred Bergston, says neither are offering solutions to one of the biggest problems.
"Neither candidate has really addressed the cardinal long-run macroeconomic problem of the economy, [and] that is the budget deficit," Bergston said.
The Treasury Department says the federal government is running up a deficit at more than twice last year's pace, which either McCain or Obama will inherit.