For over a decade in the Senate, McCain embraced legislation to broadly deregulate the banking and insurance industries. But as the Bush administration scrambled to prevent the collapse of AIG, he has attempted to recast himself as a champion of Wall Street reform.
Obama agreed Wednesday that the government "must ensure that the plan protects the families that count on insurance," but like McCain said the government "must not bail out the shareholders or management of AIG."
Obama said the fact the Federal Reserve had to intervene to save AIG at all is a "verdict on the failed economic philosophy of the last eight years" and blamed the Bush administration and McCain's unwillingness to regulate industry.
"This crisis serves as a stark reminder of the failures of crony capitalism and an economic philosophy that sees any regulation at all as unwise and unnecessary," read an Obama statement sent to reporters Wednesday.
"Despite his eleventh hour conversion to the language of reform, Senator McCain has subscribed to this philosophy for 26 years in Washington and the events of this week have rendered it a colossal failure...I will bring the change we need to restore confidence in our financial markets and strength to our economy," Obama said.
The two are rated very closely in overall trust to handle the economy – 47 percent pick Obama, 42 percent McCain, a scant 5-point Obama edge, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll . That's contracted from an 11-point Obama advantage before the conventions and a 17-point Obama lead on the economy in mid-July – a trend in McCain's favor.
However Obama leads McCain with the support of the 74 percent of Americans who say the Democratic presidential candidate understands the economic difficulties people are having, compared with 53 percent who think McCain gets it, according to the latest ABC/Post poll.
McCain and Obama are bracing to inherit an economy in turmoil next January, with an estimated record deficit of $482 billion -- the largest the nation has ever faced.
Both candidates have been criticized for not having a plan to deal with the $9.3 trillion-plus national debt and some economists have found both of the candidates' economic proposals lacking.
"Neither candidate has come up with anything that comes close to matching the size of the problems we're facing," said Peter Morici, a business professor at University of Maryland.
"The big issues are the trade deficit, energy policy, and cleaning up the banks," Morici said, arguing neither candidate has offered a good plan to fix those issues.
"Nothing that's meaningful, nothing that makes any sense, nothing that solves those problems," he said.