Democrat Barack Obama said Republican John McCain's long advocacy of deregulation contributed to the current financial crisis and letting his GOP rival continue those policies as president would be a gamble "we can't afford."
After the House defeated a bill Monday to bail out the financial industry but also impose new federal controls on it, the Democratic presidential candidate said that McCain has "fought against commonsense regulations for decades, he's called for less regulation 20 times just this year, and he said in a recent interview that he thought deregulation has actually helped grow our economy."
"Senator, what economy are you talking about?" Obama asked.
Speaking to a packed gymnasium at Mountain Range High School, Obama associated McCain's economic views with a news report about the six-term Arizona senator's closeness to the gambling industry, without ever mentioning the news story itself.
"I read the other day that Sen. McCain likes to gamble. He likes to roll those dice. And that's OK. I enjoy a little friendly game of poker myself every now and then," Obama said. "But one thing I know is this — we can't afford to gamble on four more years of the same disastrous economic policies we've had for the last eight."
The New York Times reported in its Sunday editions that McCain, a lifelong gambler, has had a close and complicated relationship with the industry and its lobbyists during his nearly three decades in Congress. The story raised questions about whether gambling interests seeking an edge benefited by courting McCain or hiring individuals close to him.
Speaking minutes after the House bailout vote, Obama also called on Congress to stay in Washington and pass a bailout bill.
"One of the messages I have to Congress is: Get this done," Obama said. "Democrats, Republicans, step up to the plate, get it done."
Obama said he's confident Congress will eventually work out something, however. "But it's going to be a little rocky," the Illinois senator said.
Obama had planned to return to Washington for a Senate vote. Before the defeat in the House, that vote had been anticipated for Wednesday. The candidate has been keeping in touch with the negotiators by telephone.
Obama said he talked with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders, who were trying to figure out the next step.
Obama said he knew the vote "was a hard thing to do for Congress."
But "today, Democrats and Republicans in Washington have the responsibility to put make sure that the emergency rescue package is put forward that can at least stop the immediate problem that we have so we can begin to plan for the future," Obama said.
Obama called on the stock market to not panic because of the bill's failure. The Dow Jones industrials dropped more than 700 points at one point as the House voted down the bailout package.
"Things are never smooth in Congress," Obama said. "Understand that it will get done, that we are going to make sure that the emergency package is put together because it is required for us to stabilize the markets and to make sure that when the small business person wakes up tomorrow morning, he's going to be able to make payroll."
Obama called bailing out Wall Street an "outrage" but had indicated his support for the bill. On Sunday, he told a Detroit crowd Congress had to act because their jobs, life savings and "the stability of our entire economy" were at risk.