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Economy Dominates US Election Campaign

The day after their second presidential debate, White House contenders Barack Obama and John McCain were back on the campaign trail and focused on the troubled U.S. economy. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

Democratic nominee Barack Obama took his campaign to the Midwest state of Indiana, which has traditionally been a Republican stronghold in presidential elections.

As he did in Tuesday's debate, Obama spent a lot of time talking about the weakened U.S. economy.

But he also promised leadership if elected in November.

"I'm here today to tell you that there are better days ahead," Obama said. "I know these times are tough and I know that many of you are anxious about the future, but this isn't the time for fear or for panic. This is time for resolve and steady leadership."

Obama noted that his Republican opponents, Senator John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, have launched new attacks on his character in recent days.

Obama said it was an attempt to divert voter attention away from the troubled economy and that it would not work.

"It's about Americans who are losing their jobs, Americans who are losing their homes, Americans who are losing their life savings," Obama said. "I can take four more weeks of John McCain's attacks, but the American people can't take four more years of John McCain's Bush policies."

Senator McCain and Governor Palin campaigned in the northeastern state of Pennsylvania, an important battleground state in the November 4 election.

McCain was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd that broke into a chant of No-Bama as he questioned Obama's record during the rally.

"You know, we have all heard what he has said. But it is less clear what he has done or what he will do," McCain said.

Both campaigns have launched negative campaign ads in recent weeks. McCain lashed out at what he believes are unfair political ads coming from the Obama campaign.

"He has even questioned my truthfulness, and let me reply in the plainest terms I know. I don't need lessons about telling the truth to the American people, and were I ever to need any improvement in that regard, I probably wouldn't seek advice from a Chicago politician," McCain said.

Both candidates said they were pleased with their performance in the Tuesday debate.

Post-debate polls by television networks CNN and CBS gave Obama an advantage over McCain.

But supporters of both candidates said they saw something positive in the debate.

"McCain won it. He tells the truth. He's straightforward," said one Wisconsin voter.

Another responded, "Well, Obama looked very, very presidential, and I think he will fit the part."

Public opinion polls indicate the focus on the economy continues to help Obama.

University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato says voters watching the debates want to know what the candidates will do to help them through tough economic times.

"When the candidates addressed the economy, they were addressing people's real concerns," he said. "Whenever they talked about other things, they really were getting off the interstate highway and moving around on dirt roads."

Former Bush adviser Dan Bartlett told CBS television that says Senator McCain may be running out of opportunities to try and switch the election focus away from the economy.

"Most observers say that this was essentially a tie. Both had their points on style," he said. "So, we move on to the next day and again, it comes back to John McCain and these last remaining days of the campaign to try to change the dynamic."

McCain's next and perhaps last best opportunity to reframe the presidential race will come next Wednesday in his final debate with Obama at Hofstra University in New York.