ORMOND BEACH, Fla. — Republican John McCain, taking a cross-state bus tour aimed at keeping vote-rich Florida from swinging to the Democrats, on Thursday accused rival Barack Obama of saying "anything to get elected."
The Arizona senator said Obama had added a work requirement to his proposal to grant a 10 percent universal mortgage credit. A top Obama aide said the campaign added the requirement two weeks ago to avoid charges that the proposal provided "welfare" to non-working Americans.
"Thirteen days to go, and he changed his tax plan because the American people had learned the truth about it and they didn't like it," McCain told a crowd at lumber yard. "It's another example that he'll say anything to get elected."
An Obama spokesman accused McCain of distortion and said the Democrat's plan always included a work requirement, although it was discussed only within the campaign or to reporters who inquired about the particulars of the plan.
"Last week, Sen. McCain called Obama's tax cuts for working people welfare. Today he's claiming Sen. Obama doesn't do enough to help the unemployed," said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor. "The only thing consistent about these attacks is how dishonest they are. All of Sen. Obama's tax credits only go to workers and they always have."
While criticizing Obama, McCain also targeted his own party. He complained the Bush administration was not yet buying up mortgages so homeowners facing foreclosure could renegotiate them at a more favorable interest rates. The GOP nominee has proposed a $300 billion plan, but a similar one is included in the $700 billion Wall Street bailout recently passed by Congress. Both McCain and Obama voted for that plan.
"I call on the administration to act now and buy up these mortgages and keep people in their homes," McCain said before singling out Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. "And why is the secretary of the Treasury not ordering them to do that?"
The charges came at the start of a bus tour targeting blue-collar Florida workers who are like the Ohio plumber, Joe Wurzelbacher, who has become the central thematic element in speeches by McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
From Ormond Beach on the Atlantic Coast to Sarasota on the Gulf Coast, McCain was criticizing Obama's tax plans and promoting his own proposals to cut taxes for individuals and businesses. After his stop at All Star Building Materials, he was moving on to a doctor's office, a restaurant and a farm.
Your polling questions answered!"Whether it's Joe the Plumber in Ohio or Joe over here," McCain said, pointing into the crowd, "we shouldn't be taxing our small businesses more, as Sen. Obama wants to do. We need to be helping them expand their businesses and create jobs."
Obama, speaking Wednesday in Virginia, rebutted such criticism, arguing that his tax plan would not raise taxes on small businesses and working couples earning less than $250,000 a year.
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"Let's be clear who John McCain is fighting for. He is not fighting for Joe the Plumber. He's fighting for Joe the Hedge Fund Manager," Obama said. "If you make less than a quarter of a million dollars a year — which includes 98 percent of small-business owners — you won't see your taxes increase one single dime."
Meanwhile, Obama's running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, said that McCain was "getting a little loose" in his campaign style.
"He doesn't have much of a steady hand these days. Now's the time we most need a steady hand," Biden added.
Video: A plethora of polls McCain's route not only covered the vote-rich "I-4 Corridor" through Orlando, in central Florida, but included informal stops between the more formal rallies. The goal was to boost McCain in a state George W. Bush won in 2000 and 2004 but which Obama is threatening to seize despite a strong GOP machine and the Arizona senator's endorsement by Gov. Charlie Crist.
Florida offers 27 electoral votes, fourth-most in the country. A total of 270 is needed to win the presidency.
Recent polls show Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, with a slight lead over McCain. Nationally, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows McCain and Obama essentially even among likely voters, possible evidence of a tightened race 12 days before the Nov. 4 election.
McCain's first stop in Florida, for coffee with Crist and three business owners from the Daytona Beach area, proved fruitful. Mike Murray, owner of the Starlite Diner, said he was concerned about both candidates raising taxes but planned to support McCain on Election Day.
"He's got the experience," Murray said as the candidate sat at a nearby booth. "I'm comfortable with him. I grew up knowing his name."
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