Senator Barack Obama has kicked off his general election campaign with a scathing attack on his Republican rival, Senator John McCain's economic policies. Obama began a two-week tour of Republican states and so-called swing states - states that sometimes vote Democratic and sometimes Republican in presidential elections. McCain was attending fund-raisers in Virginia and Washington, D.C., to help raise the cash he will need to battle Obama between now and November. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

In his first campaign appearance since Senator Hillary Clinton threw her support behind him on Saturday, Democrat Barack Obama launched a two-week tour under the motto "Change That Works for You." He began the tour in the southern state of North Carolina, a state that has not voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in 30 years. He sought to draw sharp distinctions between himself and McCain on the economy.

"This is the choice you will face in November," Obama said. "You can vote for John McCain, [Crowd yells "NO!"] and see a continuation of Bush economic policies, more tax cuts to the wealthy, more corporate tax breaks, more tax breaks going to companies that are shipping jobs overseas, more mountains of debt, and little to no relief for families that are struggling with the rising cost of everything from health care, to gasoline to a college education. But I don't think that is the future we want."

Later Monday he is heading to Missouri. His campaign says he will also go to the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Obama is clearly trying to appeal to Republicans and independents to change course, as he did in North Carolina.

"This is not an argument between left or right, liberal or conservative," he said. "It is not liberal or conservative to say that we have tried it their way for eight long years, and it has failed. It is time to try something new. It is time for a change."

Obama said McCain would continue Bush administration economic policies he called "the most fiscally irresponsible in history." Obama said he, on the other hand, would grant a tax break to most working families, and raise taxes on the highest-earning Americans.

Speaking at a fundraiser in Virginia, McCain pushed back, saying tax increases on anyone would worsen the already struggling economy. He repeated his offer for Obama to join him in a series of town hall meetings. McCain also issued the call in a speech last week.

"I'd like to do is have 10 town hall meetings, one a week, between now and the Democrat convention, maybe have 2 [00] to 400 people, chosen by an objective organization, have them show up and come to these town hall meetings all over America. The first one I would suggest to take place on June 12th, and that would be in New York City," he said.

New York City also happens to be where McCain is heading for his next fundraiser on Tuesday. The Obama campaign has said it agrees to schedule some type of joint appearances with McCain, but there have not been discussions on specifics yet.