McCain has acknowledged in the past that he knows more about foreign policy and national security than economics. Both Democratic candidates have blasted McCain for quipping that economics is not his strong suit.
"He has this wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor and out of his months comes things sometimes like ' yeah, I'm not that good on the economy' in an effort to make a small joke," Holtz-Eakin said, noting McCain has been the chair of the Senate commerce committee, and ran the largest squadron in the Navy.
Holtz-Eakin said McCain's policy will be focused on reining in congressional spending, forging trade agreements, reforming job training programs for blue-collar workers and advocating the expansion of the No Child Left Behind Act to allow parents to "take their money with them" to shop around for schools.
"Sen. McCain wants to make sure that every parent can take their child to a successful school, take the money with them and use accountability, transparency and choice as the foundation for competition, so that the child gets the education they deserve," Holtz-Eakin said.
Despite initially voting against Bush tax cuts, McCain wants to make the tax cuts permanent, give additional tax cuts to corporations and eliminate the alternative minimum tax.
"He's saying he's going to do pretty much what President Bush has done," Baker said. "I don't think that kind of head-in-the-sand approach to follow the policy of tax cuts and sort of hope for the best, that has not turned out very well."
Both Democratic candidates would roll back the Bush tax cuts for families making more than $250,000. Obama would use that tax revenue money to give low- and middle-class families a $1,000 tax cut. Clinton would offer new child-care and health tax credits.
Both Democratic candidates have suggested they would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to add environmental and labor protections.
"We're getting a lot of anti-free free talk from the Democratic candidates yet the policy positions of all of the candidates do suggest that they're probably all pro-free trade," said Michael Englund, chief economist with Action Economics, a consulting firm.
"It's not NAFTA that's the problem, it's the trade deficit with China and that's not something any of the candidates have concrete plans on," said Morici, the University of Maryland business professor.
The candidates have been criticized for not having a plan to deal with the $9.3 trillion-plus national debt.
"Not one of the major candidates for president has a plausible plan for stopping much less reversing it," said Robert E. Wright, business professor at New York University and author of new book "One Nation Under Debt," this month in a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed.
Economists say that while none of the candidates advocate a balanced budget, the Democratic candidates have gone much further than the Bush administration in offsetting spending proposals.
"You go through each and every proposal she's had and we put forward how we're going to pay for it with more specificity than Barack Obama and dramatically more than John McCain," Sperling said.
"When they announce a new plan they announce a way to pay for it," agreed Jason Furman, a director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution who has advised both Democratic presidential candidates.
But, Furman said, neither Clinton nor Obama have a plan to combat the deficit.
"Unless there are changes in their positions, whomever becomes president will preside over a period of economic malaise," Morici said.
With files from ABC News' Sunlen Miller and Bret Hovell.