Image: Barack Obama
Stan Honda  /  AFP - Getty Images
Barack Obama speaks at a rally on Tuesday at the University of Nevada at Reno.
updated 10/1/2008 1:42:16 PM ET 2008-10-01T17:42:16

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama on Wednesday headed for Washington and a Senate vote to rescue the crumbling American financial system, both stopping along the way to deliver calls for a new bipartisan spirit while avoiding customary political attacks on one another.

In an abrupt change in tone — as a new poll showed Democrat Obama pulling ahead of Republican McCain in the key swing states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania — both men declared lawmakers and voters must put aside partisanship to get behind a much-revised $700 billion Bush administration bailout plan.

The reduced rhetoric appeared to be part of an effort by both candidates to improve chances for passage of the legislation and project themselves as statesmen in the midst of crisis.

On Monday, the plan went down to defeat, mainly at the hands of Republicans, during a heavily partisan session in the House of Representatives, causing the stock market to plunge 778 points — the largest one day point decline in history.

McCain spoke at the Truman Library and Museum in Missouri.

"Crises often have a way of revealing our better selves — of showing what we are made of, and how much we can achieve when we are put to the test. This is true as well of the grave challenges we face in Washington. Yet it should not require extreme emergencies — when the future of our entire economy is on the line — to bring out the best in us, or to bring us together in service to the common good," McCain said.

Obama picked up the bipartisan tone, telling an audience in Wisconsin that he realized Americans were "cynical and fed up with politics. I understand that you're disappointed and even angry with your leaders. You have every right to be.

"But despite all of this, I ask you to believe — believe in this country and your ability to change it," he said.

Video: Obama: 'We did not get here by accident' With fewer than five weeks remaining in what has been an extended and brutal contest for the White House, the top issue for voters is the staggering U.S. economy, which has slammed Americans with home mortgage foreclosures, job losses, record fuel prices and evaporating retirement savings.

The rescue plan the Senate was to vote on Wednesday included a measure, called for a day earlier by both candidates, that would increase the federal government guarantee on bank accounts to $250,000 from a limit of $100,000.

As the Senate prepared to vote, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was at McCain's Sedona, Arizona, compound to bone up for Thursday's only debate between vice presidential candidates. Her opponent in the face-off, Sen. Joe Biden, meanwhile, was preparing at his Delaware home, but also planned to return to Washington for the vote.

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The House was thought preparing to take a fresh run at the rescue plan put forward by the administration of President George W. Bush 11 days ago, although no vote is yet scheduled.

Video: Bill Clinton: 'Wall Street we knew is gone' According to the latest poll, Obama's support jumped to 50 percent or above in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, according to Quinnipiac University surveys taken over the weekend — after Obama and McCain held their first presidential debate.

The new poll was only the latest bump in the campaign trail for McCain, who is trying to retake control of the contest during particularly trying times for Republicans, who were largely blamed for the failure of the House bailout vote.

The new survey shows Obama leading McCain in Florida 51 percent to 43 percent, in Ohio 50 percent to 42 percent and in Pennsylvania 54 percent to 39 percent. Since 1960, no president has been elected without winning two of those three states.

Perhaps sensing deepening voter anxiety over the economy, both men had already begun working on Tuesday to cool the partisan heat over the crisis by calling for Congress to regroup and act quickly to prevent the feared financial collapse and foster confidence in the banking system.

Both presidential candidates are under pressure to reassure voters that they can prevent an economic meltdown of a kind unseen since Franklin D. Roosevelt was voted into the White House in the depths of the 1930s Great Depression.

Also Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton set aside whatever bitter feelings he holds from wife Hillary Rodham Clinton's loss in the Democratic primary campaign, telling Florida voters the choice between his fellow Democrat and McCain was not even close. Clinton was dispatched to boost a voter registration drive in the key battleground state.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: 'Greatest financial crisis' of lives


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