Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has found a  clear-cut difference between himself and rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. — their stance on a gas tax holiday.
updated 5/2/2008 1:30:02 PM ET 2008-05-02T17:30:02

Sen. Barack Obama said Friday a summertime suspension of the federal gasoline tax could cost 6,000 jobs in next week's primary state of Indiana, and accused Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain of "reading from the same political playbook" by endorsing it.

"This is a plan that would save you pennies a day for the summer months. That is unless gas prices are raised to fill in the gap," the Democratic presidential contender said.

At a news conference, Obama also disputed suggestions that he is an elitist.

"In fact, our lives when you look over the last two decades more closely approximate the lives of the average voter than any of the other candidates," the Illinois senator said.

"We've struggled with paying student loans. We've tried to figure out whether we have adequate daycare. I've actually filled up my own gas tank."

Obama and his wife Michelle reported income of $4.2 million last year, much of it in book royalties. But he often tells campaign audiences that until fairly recently, they struggled with bills.

Clinton and her husband, the former president, have reported income of more than $100 million since he left the White House in 2001. McCain's wife, Cindy, inherited a beer distributorship from her father.

'Pennies a day'?
The proposed federal gas tax holiday is a rarity in the marathon battle for the Democratic presidential nomination — a clear-cut policy difference between Obama and Clinton, and it is playing out in the final days of primary campaigns in Indiana and North Carolina.

Clinton reiterated her support for the gas tax suspension at a John Deere tractor dealership in Kinston, N.C., her first event in a two-day campaign swing across the state. The New York senator planned to introduce legislation with New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to levy a windfall profits tax on oil companies to fund the tax suspension.

"All I hear about is gas prices. Gas and diesel, everywhere," she said. "Some people say we don't need to get a gas tax holiday at all, it's a gimmick ... I want the Congress to stand up and vote. Are they for the oil companies, or are they for you?"

Clinton has criticized Obama for opposing the measure, and he has dug in, as well.

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"At best, this is a plan that would save you pennies a day for the summer months; that is, unless gas prices are raised to fill in the gap, which is just what happened in Illinois, when we tried this a few years ago," he said.

Meanwhile, unless you can magically impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies overnight to pay for the holiday, it could imperil federal highway funding, and cost Indiana more than 6,000 jobs.

Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for McCain, the certain Republican presidential nominee, criticized Obama in return.

"Barack Obama has absolutely no plan to fight record gas prices this summer, and only he'd be talking about a political playbook when the real issue is hurting American families and their pocketbooks," he said.

Money from the tax goes into a fund that pays for highway and bridge construction.

Obama once supported a temporary lifting of the tax while in the Illinois legislature, but has since said it does not make sense.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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