Oct. 10, 2008 -- With 25 days to go until the election, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama both are fighting to be seen as the candidate who can fix things -- but they are taking markedly different approaches.
All week long, McCain has hammered Obama's record and alleged past associations with former Weather Underground figure Bill Ayers -- raising questions about Obama's character and ability to lead.
Obama, campaigning in the battleground state of Ohio, placed blame on the Republicans for the current state of the financial crisis. But at times, in an attempt to look "presidential," his aides say, Obama tried to disassociate himself from the mudslinging and appear "calm."
"You've believed in yourselves, you believed in each other, and I want you to believe in the future we can build together," Obama said. "Now is the time for resolve and steady leadership. We can meet this moment."
While Obama might claim to be apolitical, he also played clear political angles, labeling McCain as "erratic" and "unsteady" on the economy, and asserting the economy is a bigger issue than whatever barrage of charges McCain is making about his ties to Ayers.
"I know my opponent is worried about his campaign," Obama said. "But that's not what I'm concerned about. I'm thinking about the Americans losing their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings."
With the latest ABC News poll showing Americans trust Obama more to handle the economic situation, it is clear the Obama campaign will attempt to keep the focus on the economic crisis, while the McCain campaign may try to redirect it.
On the trail and in campaign ads, McCain tried to cut into Obama's growing lead in polls by making the case that voters can trust him, but that they shouldn't trust Obama.
On the stump in La Crosse, Wis., McCain reiterated his line of attack from Tuesday's second presidential debate: Obama is "dangerous," and voters should be nervous.
"Rather than answer his critics, Sen. Obama will try to distract you from noticing that he never answers the serious and legitimate questions he has been asked," McCain told the crowd. "And which candidate's experience -- in government and in life -- makes him a more reliable leader for our country and commander in chief for our troops? In short, who is ready to lead? In a time of trouble and danger for our country, who will put our country first?"
McCain sought to paint Obama as a politician who can't be trusted -- someone who will raise taxes and leave the next generation with a mountain of debt.
He asked the crowd, "Will your sons and daughters grow up in the kind of country you wish for them, rising in the world and finding in their own lives the best of America?"
McCain again pointed to his record, comparing his experience to what he perceives as his opponent's weakness.
"You don't have to hope things will change when you vote for me," McCain said. "You know things will change, because I have been fighting for change in Washington my whole career. I've been fighting for you my whole life."
In a new TV ad released Friday, the McCain campaign hit Obama hard.
"When convenient, he worked with terrorist Bill Ayers," the ad claims. "When discovered, he lied.
"In crisis, we need leadership, not bad judgment," the McCain ad continued.
But in the Republican stronghold of Chillocothe, Ohio, Obama fought back, suggesting that McCain seeks to fuel division by running negative attack ads, and ignoring the issues that affect Americans.
At a "moment of great uncertainty for America," when millions have lost their investments, Obama reminded the crowd that McCain took the easy way out.
"Nothing's easier than railing up a crowd by stoking anger and division," Obama said. "But that's not what we need right now in the United States. The times are too serious."
The Obama campaign also launched a new ad Friday night to air in battleground states, reminding voters that McCain is resorting to smear tactics and false attacks.
The narrator says, "John McCain admits if the election is about the economy, he's going to lose."
On the stump, Obama danced delicately between political punch and economic pep rally when addressing the financial crisis.
"We have to turn the page on eight years of failed economic policies," he said at one point, jabbing at the Bush administration.
"You've believed in yourselves," he said at another point. "You believed in each other, and I want you to believe in the future we can build together."
Candidates Address the Economy
Amid the mudslinging, both candidates also are addressing the economy on a policy level.
McCain has promised not to raise anyone's taxes.
At Tuesday's debate, he unveiled a new $300 billion plan to refinance mortgages and make them more affordable for average Americans.
"In this time of crisis, we must go to the heart of the problem, and right now, that problem is a housing crisis," McCain told the crowd in La Crosse, Wis.
The plan calls for nearly half of the $700 billion financial rescue funds to go towards buying troubled mortgages directly, instead of indirectly aiding the Wall Street financial markets.
McCain also has promised to close the deficit by the end of his first term. And on Friday, he vowed to relax regulations requiring people to start cashing in their Individual Retirement Accounts shortly after reaching age 70, due to the market crash.
"To spare investors from being forced to sell their stocks at just the time when the market is hurting the most, those rules should be suspended," McCain said in La Crosse.
At the rally in Columbus, Obama proposed a short-term solution for small business to receive federal loans, extending credit and providing tax cuts for struggling firms to encourage job creation.
"It's hard to tell right now," one Ohioan said about Obama's economic policy. "But I think he is going to try to help middle-class people."
But it is the men, not so much the message, that appeals to the voters who attend these rallies.
"I think that McCain has shown that he can work on both sides of the table -- you know, to help this country," said one supporter in La Crosse.
"And Mr. Obama," said Todd Rubusch, a Wisconsin voter, "I'm greatly concerned with, that the more government, more taxes is inevitable with his programs."