Barack Obama unveiled a new plan to tackle the United States’ economic crisis today as his Republican rival John McCain insisted the race was not over yet.
Mr Obama told supporters in the key battleground state of Ohio, which has been hard-hit by the nation’s financial woes, that further immediate steps were needed to help those who were suffering.
The Illinois senator was speaking as Mr McCain, who is trailing in national polls, insisted the Republicans were “still in this game” and, referring to Mr Obama, pledged he would “whip his you-know-what” in the third and final presidential debate of the 2008 election on Wednesday night.
Raising expectations before such a high-profile encounter is unusual in US presidential politics, but Mr McCain insisted that “we’ve got them just where we want them”.
The McCain campaign has suffered in the polls in recent weeks as its stumbling response to the financial crisis saw the Obama campaign take a clear edge.
Today, Mr Obama unveiled new proposals to get the nation’s economy back on track at a rally in Toledo, Ohio.
“I’m proposing a number of steps that we should take immediately to stabilise our financial system, provide relief to families and communities and help struggling homeowners,” the Democrat said.
He said the focus would be on the “one word that’s on everyone’s minds”, jobs, and proposed a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures at some banks and a two-year tax break for businesses which create new jobs.
He also suggested allowing people to withdraw up to $10,000 (€7,401) from their retirement accounts without any penalty for the remainder of the year and 2009.
The plan, which would cost $60bn (€44.41bn) over two years, could be enacted quickly, he said.
“We need to give people the breathing room they need to get back on their feet,” he said.
But he also claimed everyone – including members of the public on “Main Street” – were responsible for the crisis and added that “a new ethic of responsibility” was needed.
“Part of the reason this crisis occurred, if we’re honest with ourselves, everyone was living beyond their means,” he said.
“From Wall Street to Washington, to even some on Main Street: CEOs got greedy; politicians spent money they didn’t have; lenders tricked people into buying homes they couldn’t afford; and some folks knew they couldn’t afford them and they bought them anyway.
“We lived through an era of easy money, in which we were allowed, and even encouraged, to spend without limits, take out as many credit cards as possible, take out the home equity loans, to borrow instead of save.”
He said he realised that “for many folks it was not a choice, but a necessity, just to keep up” but said it was now time for change.
He also admitted the crisis meant that some of his plans would need to be deferred until the financial burden eased.
Meanwhile, Mr McCain told supporters in Wilmington, North Carolina, that it was time for some “straight talk” as he insisted he was still in the race for the White House.
“The national media has written us off,” he said.
“Senator Obama is measuring the drapes, and planning with Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and Senator (Harry) Reid to raise taxes, increase spending, take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labour elections, and concede defeat in Iraq.
“But they forgot to let you decide.
“My friends, we’ve got them just where we want them.”
In fact, Mr Obama has proposed tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 (€185,013) and has called for a timetable for withdrawing US forces from Iraq.
Yesterday, Mr McCain acknowledged that his campaign was trailing in the polls, by more than seven points according to the latest average of polls by RealClearPolitics.com.
“We’re a couple points down, OK, nationally, but we’re right in this game,” he said to cheers.
“The economy has hurt us a little bit in the last week or two, but in the last few days we’ve seen it come back up because they want experience, they want knowledge and they want vision. We’ll give that to America.”
He went on: “We’re going to spend a lot of time and after I whip his you-know-what in this debate, we’re going to be going out 24/7.”
The two men will meet face-to-face at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, on Wednesday night.
Both men have pledged to run “respectful” campaigns after the race took an aggressively negative turn last week and Mr McCain rebuked his supporters for making personal attacks on Mr Obama’s character.