Presidential Candidates Address Economic Woes

In a media availibility later Monday afternoon, Obama said he has not spoken with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, or the president of the Federal Reserve like Clinton did this morning.

"We have a number of phone calls that have been scheduled, I've been talking to the heads of the larger banks on Wall Street just to get a sense of where they see this going," Obama said, arguing the central bank did the right thing by working with investment firm JP Morgan to buy out embattled investment firm Bear Stearns.

The Republican National Committee pounced on Obama's statement Monday.

"The irony is that if Barack Obama studied history, he'd know that his tax-and-spend proposals would only hurt the economy. Barack Obama may not have much experience with national economic policy, but he should know that new taxes won't create new jobs," RNC spokesperson Alex Conant said.

In Washington Monday, Bush met with Treasury Secretary Paulson to discuss the economic situation and held talks with his task force on financial markets.

"We're in challenging times. But another thing is for certain: that we've taken strong and decisive action," Bush said at the White House, defending the Federal Reserve's move to be a lender of last resort for struggling investment firms.

"When need be, we'll act decisively, in a way that continues to bring order to the financial markets," he said.

McCain Travels in Iraq

McCain was in Baghdad Monday and didn't comment on the economic troubles, but his senior policy adviser put out a statement.

"Sen. McCain has complete confidence in Chairman Bernanke and the actions of the Federal Reserve, and is committed to ensuring the economy continues to grow -- because no government program or policy is a substitute for a good job," read a statement from Obama's senior policy adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin.

"John McCain understands the federal government's responsibility to ensure the stability of the U.S. financial system, and is equally committed to protecting the pocketbooks of hardworking American families."

While McCain has focused his campaign on his national security credentials and his position on the war in Iraq, he usually begins his stump speeches talking about the economy, saving the so-called "war on terror" for his big finish.

Earlier this month, McCain addressed the economy and alligned himself with Bush's tax cut remedy, marking a departure from his early opposition to making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

"Our economy is not in the condition we want it to be. Let's have some straight talk," McCain said campaigning in Atlanta March 7.

"I want to assure you that the one thing I do not believe is the way to fix it is to raise your taxes. I think that's the last thing that we should do. It's the last thing we should do is raise your taxes and increase regulation and try to impose big government solutions to it. My friends, we have to make the present … tax cuts permanent."

Voters have cited the economy as their top issue in every Democratic contest so far, except the Iowa caucuses, where it tied with Iraq as the top issue. Taken altogether, the economy is the top issue for 50 percent of voters, with Iraq at 27 percent and health care at 20 percent.

Clinton's top advisers were asked by a reporter today if it was "time to start thinking bigger" and if there were other specific proposals she would put forward now, given the extent of the problems facing the financial markets.

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