WASHINGTON — Democrat Barack Obama derided Republican opponent John McCain's mortgage buyout plan on Thursday as a misdirected effort that rewards bad behavior by lenders and takes billions of dollars from taxpayers, already suffering a heavy burden as the country's financial system teeters on the brink of a meltdown.
Speaking at the start of a two-day bus tour through swing-state Ohio, Obama charged that McCain's plan would force the government to absorb the full cost of renegotiating mortgages to prevent borrowers from losing their homes. He said lenders should share some of the costs of any program that attempts to stem the American financial crisis that grew out of questionable home-mortgage practices.
McCain put forward the mortgage rescue idea Tuesday night during the second presidential debate in a bid to recapture momentum in the historic 2008 campaign, where polls show him slipping in the polls both nationally and state-by-state. He said the government should spend $300 billion to buy up bad mortgages and re-negotiate them at lower interest rates to prevent foreclosures and keep threatened Americans in their homes.
Obama told thousands at a Dayton baseball stadium that McCain's plan "would guarantee that American taxpayers lose by handing over $300 billion to underwrite the kind of greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street that got us into this mess."
Sen. Joe Biden, Obama's running mate, also chimed in on McCain's mortgage plan. While campaigning in Missouri, he said the Arizona senator has "gone to the point of actually wanting to reward banks and lenders for their greedy behavior."
Part of Obama's rise in the polls was laid to his ability to significantly outspend McCain in TV advertising, allowing him to better target the swing voters who will decide the election and to take a more positive pitch as he presses to expand his lead.
The Obama campaign announced Thursday that it had secured 30 minutes during prime time for a TV commercial on NBC and CBS . CBS already was juggling its lineup to accommodate the Democratic presidential candidate.
On Monday alone, Obama spent $3.3 million in TV advertising. At that rate the Democrat will spend more than $90 million on ads through the Nov. 4 election — more than all the money McCain has to spend on his entire fall campaign.
Obama leads in key states and the most recent Gallup Poll daily tracking survey, released Thursday, showed Obama expanding his lead over McCain to 11 percentage points, his largest advantage since the organization began testing voter opinions in their matchup early in the summer.
With polls showing him building a broader lead, Obama has switched to a more positive pitch in his ads. Last week, only 34 percent of his ads attacked McCain directly while virtually all of McCain's ads attacked Obama, according to a study by the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
McCain's ad spending Monday totaled about $900,000 and the Republican National Committee weighed in with about $700,000 worth.
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All whopping numbers, but the disparity between Obama and the Republicans is so wide that it has allowed Obama to spend in more states than McCain, to appear more frequently in key markets and to diversify his message by both attacking McCain and promoting his own personal story.
Video: Cindy McCain steps up Obama attacks Both candidates have tried to play into voters' worries about the other as the election draws nearer. McCain is perceived as being weak on the economy, and Obama continued a line of attack against the veteran senator for saying recently that the fundamentals of the U.S. economy were strong.
McCain, after forgoing character attacks during this week's debate, sought Wednesday to sow doubt about Obama's background and character. Obama, meanwhile, accused the McCain campaign of trying to "score cheap political points."
McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, challenged Obama's campaign claims, stressed the first-term senator's lack of experience and said his ideas were dangerous.
"We've all heard what he's said. But it's less clear what he's done, or what he will do," McCain told supporters in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
McCain's remarks about Obama were interrupted with shouts of "socialist," "terrorist" and "liar."
Video: What’s in a (middle) name? A lot, says McCain camp Palin said there were too many questions about Obama's past: "John McCain didn't just come out of nowhere. The American people know John McCain."
Last weekend, Palin repeatedly went after Obama, claiming he is close with William Ayers, a founder of the violent Vietnam-era group the Weather Underground. Obama and Ayers live in the same Chicago neighborhood and have served together on community boards.
During an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Wednesday, McCain spoke about his opponent's ties with Ayers, saying, "It's about Senator Obama being candid and straight forward with the American people about their relationship."
He invoked Ayers again during a campaign event Waukesha, Wis. on Thursday, saying "We need to know the full extent of the relationship."
Palin first accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists," then re-calibrated her criticism to say the lack of clarity about the Ayers-Obama relationship was a legitimate campaign issue because it speaks to Obama's truthfulness and judgment.
Obama, speaking in an ABC News interview televised Wednesday night, shot back at the McCain campaign, saying they were highlighting his association with Ayers in an effort to smear him in the final weeks before the election.
Obama said Wednesday that he has said many times that Ayers "engaged in some despicable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old" and that he was an education professor at the University of Illinois when they met 10 or 15 years ago.
"The notion that somehow he has been involved in my campaign, that he is an adviser of mine, that he — I've palled around with a terrorist, all these statements are made simply to try to score cheap political points," Obama said.
The faltering economy has been dominating discussions, and on Wednesday, McCain said he would "confront" the massive federal debt and would balance the annual federal budget by the end of his term in office, without specifying whether he meant in four years or perhaps eight years should he be elected twice.
On Thursday, both campaigns were focusing on Midwestern swing states. McCain and Palin were holding a rally in Wisconsin, and Palin was also heading to Ohio.
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