Barack Obama is bad for business, his Republican rival John McCain said today.
The former Vietnam prisoner of war and Arizona senator told small business owners that Mr Obama's economic policies would hand them higher taxes and steeper overhead costs.
His comments came as the first-term Illinois senator embarked on the second day of his two-week economic tour of the US.
Mr McCain told members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) in Washington DC: “You work hard in small businesses to grow and create new jobs and opportunities for others.
“The federal government shouldn’t make your work any harder.”
He also criticised Mr Obama for pledging to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which is credited for record exports by Republicans but blamed for job losses by many Democrats.
Mr McCain, who was introduced by Meg Whitman, chief executive of popular auction website eBay, was briefly interrupted by three protesters who yelled that war was bad for small business.
The protesters were booed and escorted from the room, and Mr McCain used the interruptions to call for civil debate in the campaign.
Mr McCain told the NFIB: “I don’t want to send any more of your earnings to the government.
“I believe that the best way to help small businesses and employers afford health care is not to increase government control of health care but to bring the rising cost of care under control and give people the option of having personal, portable health insurance.”
McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds labelled Mr Obama’s plan as “change we just can’t afford”.
Mr Obama defended his proposals and accused Mr McCain of misrepresenting his plans to tackle the troubled US economy.
Speaking to reporters in St Louis, Missouri, Mr Obama said he would eliminate the capital gains tax “for the small businesses and startups that are the backbone of our economy”.
He said his income tax plans would cut taxes for 95% of US workers, while rolling back the Bush administration’s tax reductions for the highest-earning 5%.
He said Mr McCain “wants to add 300 billion dollars (£150bn) more in tax breaks and loopholes for big corporations and for the wealthiest Americans, and he hasn’t even explained how he’d pay for it”.
Mr Obama said his rival’s plan would help only the wealthy.
“He’s offering a tax cut that won’t ensure that health care is affordable for hardworking families who need help most,” he said.
“And his plan could actually put your coverage at risk by undermining the employer-based system that most Americans depend on.”