McCain Pledges to Balance Budget in First Term

Republican candidate says he will balance federal budget during his first term.

ByABC News via logo
July 7, 2008, 8:33 AM

July 7, 2008— -- After yet another campaign staff shake-up, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will try to repackage his economic plans by promising to balance the federal budget in four years.

The bold declaration -- which McCain will make during a Denver town hall meeting as part of a weeklong tour of swing states -- is part of his efforts to be perceived as the candidate who can manage the economy; the economy has become voters' overwhelmingly top priority, and it offers a way for McCain to dramatically differentiate himself from President Bush.

McCain's Jobs for America tour is also intended to shake the image that McCain lacks knowledge about the economy, a view the presumptive Republican presidential candidate has fed with his own comments.

The latest ABC News poll indicates Americans trust Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to handle the economy better than McCain, 52 percent to 36 percent.

McCain and Steve Schmidt, the new official managing the day-to-day operations of McCain's campaign, know that has got to change.

At a town hall meeting in Denver, McCain vows to balance the federal budget by 2013, which would be the end of his first term as president.

The federal deficit is currently projected by the Congressional Budget Office to hit $443 billion by 2013, assuming the Bush tax cuts are extended.

McCain will argue that his ambitious goal of balancing the budget can be attained through five main points: economic growth spurred by the elements of his economic plan, eliminating congressional budget add-ons called earmarks, offering private Social Security accounts for younger Americans, withdrawing troops from the Middle East and freezing or slowing discretionary spending.

McCain has vowed before to balance the budget by 2013, and then backed off that.

Appearing on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" last April, McCain was asked if he was sticking to his 2013 balanced budget deadline.

Instead of sticking to the promise, McCain said "that would be the goal."

"We will have made a long progress toward it," McCain said, being less emphatic about the deadline. "Now, if economic conditions continue to deteriorate, it's going to be harder, but we're going to be on a path to a balanced budget."