President Bush, Sarah Palin Weigh on McCain as Campaign Reaches Final Weekend

Can McCain provide the "clean break" with Bush policies that he's promised?

October 31, 2008, 9:19 AM

Oct. 31, 2008— -- Sen. John McCain's White House hopes are being hobbled by his two most prominent Republican allies, President Bush and vice presidential running mate Gov. Sarah Palin, according to recent polls.

In an effort to buoy up his chances with just four days to go before Election Day, McCain today criticized Bush's economic plans and vigorously defended Palin.

McCain has struggled to distance himself from Bush and his ankle-high approval ratings.

Bush's economic legacy and his policies for dealing with the current fiscal crisis have been a particular drag on McCain's poll numbers.

The Republican presidential candidate told "Good Morning America" today that for the final four days of the campaign, "We're going to fight it out on the economic grounds."

Moments later, he tore into the Bush administration for spending billions of dollars to rescue large banks but balking at aid for homeowners.

"I'm terribly disappointed with this administration that they seem to be interested in bailing out the banks and not taking care of homeowners," McCain told "GMA."

The Republican president has been coming under increasing fire from the Republican presidential campaign.

Earlier this week, McCain called for a "clean break" with the Bush administration on its energy policy, charging that Bush was too reliant on foreign oil.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll found that 50 percent of the voters believe McCain would mainly continue Bush's policies.

That's a severe handicap when more than seven in 10 Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance.

While Bush has helped raise money for the election, he has not appeared on the campaign trail for McCain.

McCain has been relying instead on the endorsement of Samuel Joe Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, to drive home his economic message that Sen. Barack Obama's tax policies are more intent on "spreading the wealth" rather than rewarding hard work.

Prominent McCain Backer Eagleburger Offers Faint Praise for Palin

While still drawing large rally crowds and continuing to excite the conservative base, Gov. Sarah Palin may be weighing on the Republican ticket in its appeal to independents, often a key to victory in battleground states.

In a recent ABC News/Washington Post daily tracking poll, Palin's overall favorability rating -- the most basic measure of a public figure's popularity -- fell steeply.

A New York Times poll mirrors the ABC/Post poll from last week that found growing numbers of voters disapprove of McCain's choice for vice president, believing that she isn't qualified for the job.

"It's clear across a range of polls now that the Palin choice has hurt John McCain with some of the voters he was targeting, some of those undecideds, women voters," ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos told "Good Morning America."

"While Joe Biden seems to have helped make people feel better about Barack Obama, the pick of Sarah Palin seems to have made them feel worse about John McCain," Stephanopoulos said.

McCain came to his running mate's defense when asked on "GMA" about comments by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, a McCain supporter, who criticized Palin's qualifications for vice president.

"Give her some time in office and I think she will be adequate," Eagleburger told National Public Radio. "I can't say she will be a genius in the job."

"Larry has never had a chance to meet Sarah," McCain told "GMA." "She has more experience than Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden put together."

Palin has been a favorite of the party's conservative base, however, leading to speculation about tension between McCain and Palin camps as the duo trail in the polls during the final grueling days of the campaign.

Earlier this week, Palin predicted victory during an interview with ABC News' "20/20."

"If it doesn't happen, Elizabeth Vargas asked her about the future," "GMA" anchor Robin Roberts said to McCain. "And she said she's not doing this for naught. Gov. Palin is not doing this for naught. Do you think she is the face of the Republican Party going forward?"

"I think to a large degree as vice president or, o r..." McCain said with a chuckle, trailing off before concluding, "She's united our country to a large degree. And she's in many ways an inspirational figure."

Watch Elizabeth Vargas Interview Sarah Palin Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. E.T

McCain also said Palin's background as governor of a small state was not a drawback.

"I would remind you, there was an obscure governor of a small state called Arkansas that everybody said wasn't qualified," he said, referring to former President Bill Clinton. "I didn't vote for him, but he got elected and re-elected."

McCain Launches Final Weekend in Ohio; Obama Looks to Expand Map

McCain began his Halloween campaigning in Ohio, which he has made a must-win state for his White House ambitions.

The Arizona senator will be flanked by prominent Republicans at several points over four rallies in the Buckeye State as the campaign heads into its final weekend. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be on the trail to support McCain.

The candidate will also make an appearance this weekend on "Saturday Night Live," which has become an essential stop for candidates.

Two top Republicans the public won't see this weekend: President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Bush remains in Washington as Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain fight to become his successor, and Cheney will be in Wyoming.

McCain released a new ad today featuring praise from an unlikely source -- Obama.

The ad, which will be shown in key battleground states, shows Obama praising McCain for his stand on climate change and that Obama often believes McCain is right.

Both McCain and Obama have been flooding the airwaves in the final lap of the 2008 presidential race, and a study by the Wisconsin Ad Project shows that McCain is being outspent by Obama by nearly three to one.

The Wisconsin Ad Project said that $38 million was spent on TV ads by both candidates and outside groups during a seven day period from Oct. 21 to Oct. 28. Most of that money, $21 million, was spent by Obama, the project said.

Those figures do not include the estimated $4 million Obama spent on his 30 minute infomercial earlier this week.

In addition, Obama is launching new ads in traditionally Republican strongholds, including McCain's home state of Arizona, as well as in North Dakota and Georgia.

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