Video: McCain talks energy, economy

updated 7/30/2008 4:21:45 PM ET 2008-07-30T20:21:45

Barack Obama tapped into the economic worries of middle-class voters on Wednesday, saying rival John McCain would stay on a reckless economic course taken by President George W. Bush.

With polls showing a tight race, the economy is at the forefront of U.S. voter concerns as gas prices, inflation and home foreclosure rates soar. As the campaigns head into the stretch before the August and September nominating conventions, Obama has tried to portray his Republican rival as four more years of unpopular Bush policies.

"It's true that change is hard, change isn't easy," Obama said. "Nobody here thinks that Bush or McCain has a real answer for the challenges we face so what they're going to try to do is make you scared about me," Obama said in remarks prepared for an audience in Springfield, Missouri, the first stop on a bus tour devoted to discussing economic security.

"It's a leap, electing a 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama," he said, adding that the message Republicans have for voters is simple: "He doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bill."

Obama contends that McCain would resort to tired Republican charges that he is a big-spending liberal.

Change with difficulty was a core theme Democrat Bill Clinton used when he opposed President George H.W. Bush in 1992, a campaign also fought during tough economic times.

Obama further slammed McCain on Wednesday, saying that his rival wants to cut taxes for the wealthy, while his own policies would repeal Bush's tax cuts for the rich, give $1,000 tax cuts to 95 percent of workers and provide relief to struggling homeowners.

"I want to cut taxes for middle-class families, ordinary folks who are working hard and playing by the rules," he said. "I'm ready to duel John McCain on taxes right here, quick draw."

That drew a quick retort from a McCain aide.

"If Barack Obama wants this so-called duel, then why did he and his entourage run for the hills when John McCain challenged him to 10 town halls," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Obama responded after shaking hands at a restaurant in Lebanon.

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Video: Obama to ‘examine’ economic policies "I don't hear very much positive from Sen. McCain," he said. "He seems to be only talking about me. You need to ask John McCain what he's for, not just what he's against."

Obama's comments come a day after McCain battled to allay concerns among his conservative voter base that he is open to raising taxes to shore up America's federal retirement program.

At a town hall meeting Tuesday with Nevada voters, McCain handed his microphone to a young girl who asked if he would raise taxes. "No," he said in a stern response, apparently hoping to quash concerns growing out of a weekend television interview.

He caught some Republicans by surprise when he responded to a question about payroll tax increases, saying, "I cannot tell you what I would do, except to put everything on the table."

"I don't want tax increases. But that doesn't mean that anything is off the table," he said.

That comment drew a strong response from the Club for Growth, a Washington anti-tax group, that wrote to McCain saying his words were "shocking because you have been adamant in your opposition to raising taxes under any circumstances."

On Wednesday, McCain was to be in Colorado before heading to a Kansas City, Missouri, fundraising session.

There was growing speculation, meanwhile, about who both men would name as their vice presidential running mates. Current and former governors and senators seem the most serious contenders, though most of those mentioned are playing coy about any discussions with either campaign.

The choices were expected to carry special weight with voters in this election: McCain would be the oldest person elected to a first term as U.S. president and Obama may be looking for a more experienced running mate given his relatively short four years on the national political stage.

There were growing indications that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton — once seen as a natural choice for Obama after he defeated her in an extended primary battle — has been ruled out or slipped to near the bottom of the Illinois senator's short list.

Campaign watchers now are looking to Virginia's Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, who on Tuesday refused to confirm media reports that he has given the Obama campaign his financial records for review.

McCain has likewise kept his decision-making under tight wraps and potential running mates have been just as evasive.

Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he has decided to stop answering questions about a spot on McCain's ticket because of all the gossip.

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

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