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Obma, McCain Joust Over Economic Issues

Economic issues dominated the U.S. presidential election campaign Wednesday. Democrat Barack Obama said Republican John McCain would continue President Bush's economic policies, while McCain lashed back at Obama over taxes and energy. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone is following the campaign and has a report from Washington.

Senator Obama told supporters in Missouri that his Republican opponent, Senator McCain, would continue what he called reckless economic policies being pursued by the Bush administration that have put middle class families in a bind.

"He has embraced the Bush economic policies and promises to continue them, same policies as George Bush," Obama said. "He wants to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and he wants to put another $300 billion tax cut on the table for corporations. Why not small businesses? Because he thinks it is o.k. the way things are going right now. Let me tell you, we cannot afford to keep on doing more of the same, and that is why I am running for president of the United States of America!"

In part, Obama was responding to stepped-up attacks from the McCain campaign that the Democratic presidential contender would raise taxes if elected and would block offshore drilling for oil because of environmental concerns.

McCain initially opposed President Bush's tax cut plan for wealthy Americans, but now supports their continuation.

McCain told a crowd of supporters in Colorado that Obama is intent on raising taxes and expanding the role of the federal government if elected.

"What he says and what he does are often two different things, and he does not seem to understand that policies he offers would make our policies worse, not better," he said. "Senator Obama says he is going to change Washington, but his solution is to simply make government bigger and raise your taxes to pay for it. And I want to look you in the eye and say I will not raise your taxes or support a tax increase. I will not do it!"

McCain has been pressed in recent days to restate his opposition to tax increases because in a recent interview he refused to rule out the idea of boosting payroll taxes to shore up the Social Security pension system, which most Americans count on in retirement.

McCain's comments on taxes angered economic conservatives who traditionally insist that Republican presidential candidates rule out any tax increases once in office.

The focus on the economy is not surprising given public opinion polls that show voter concerns about the economy and high fuel prices as the top issues in the campaign.

The McCain campaign also released a new television ad depicting Senator Obama as a celebrity figure who does not have enough experience to lead the country.

"He is the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead? With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says not to offshore drilling and says he will raise taxes on electricity?"

The ad combines pictures of Obama's speech in Germany last week with images of Hollywood celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, suggesting he is more style than substance.

Obama leads McCain in most public opinion polls, but many experts believe the edge is smaller than expected given the Democratic Party's advantages in this year's election.