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Faltering economy most important issue to voters

With the faltering US economy now the most important issue to voters, Barack Obama began a two-week campaign tour, hoping to highlight the fiscal differences between himself and rival John McCain.

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Story Transcript

JOHN BELMONT, ASSOCIATED PRESS (VOICEOVER): Hoping to seize on record gas prices and the recent spike in unemployment, Barack Obama strolled into North Carolina Monday, kicking off a two-week campaign tour that will focus largely on the ailing US economy. From the outset, Obama made it clear how he was hoping to frame the debate.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D-IL): The man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for ExxonMobil. That isn’t just irresponsible; it’s outrageous.

BELMONT: The economy is an issue the Illinois senator is trying to make his own, rather than national security, where polls show his Republican rival, John McCain, has the edge. Obama dubs McCain’s economic plan a full-throated endorsement of President George W. Bush’s policies, something the Arizona senator has said is not true.

JOHN MCCAIN, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R-AZ): No matter who wins this election, the direction of the country’s going to change dramatically.

BELMONT: But Obama isn’t buying it, noting that McCain now wants to make permanent the Bush tax cuts that he once called irresponsible.

OBAMA: But something’s certainly changed about John McCain, because these same Bush tax cuts are now his central economic policy.

MCCAIN: My friends, you need a little straight talk.

BELMONT: Lashing back, McCain says Obama’s fiscal vision, which calls for increased government spending, would only further weaken the economy.

MCCAIN: One of the differences between me and Senator Obama is that he wants to continue this spending spree. He wants to continue this waste of your tax dollars.

BELMONT: Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke tried to calm fears of a recession while speaking at a conference last night, saying the danger of the country falling into a substantial downturn appears to have faded. But talk about how it will rebound has not.

MCCAIN: We’re going to have to return prosperity to the American people.

OBAMA: If the government can bail out investment banks on Wall Street, we can extend a hand to folks who are struggling here on Main Street.

BELMONT: Recent polls show the economy is now the most important issue for voters, surpassing even the Iraq War. John Belmont, the Associated Press.

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