McCain and Obama Campaign on Economic Agenda

Presidential hopefuls try to win voters over with the economic agenda.

July 7, 2008— -- On the campaign trail Monday, both White House hopefuls addressed the number one issue on voters' minds: the economy.

In Denver, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., compared his proposed plan to "get America moving again," to that of his opponent in the presidential campaign, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. The centerpiece of McCain's economic plan is cutting taxes to stimulate the economy. The Republican proposes to lower corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent, and to retain the Bush tax cuts he twice voted against.

"When you raise taxes in a bad economy, you eliminate jobs. I'm not going to let that happen," McCain said.

Under Obama's plan, middle- and lower-income wage earners will get a break. The cuts he proposes would increase taxes for higher wage earners.

"Obama would pretty much change the way taxes are levied against the middle class ... and McCain is very traditionally a Republican of Bush-era type Republican here," said Anne Mathias, an economist with the Stanford Group.

On Monday, the presumptive Democratic nominee, delivering remarks in St. Louis, also knocked his opponent on the state of the economy.

"John McCain wants to provide $300 billion in more tax breaks to corporations and wealthy CEOs. I want to provide a tax break to working families," said Obama.

The senator had intended to present his economic plan to voters in Charlotte, N.C., but earlier this morning, his presidential campaign plane was forced to make an unscheduled stop in St. Louis, due to a maintenance problem. The emergency stop was made because of "controllability issues" with the "pitch" of the MD-80, according to the pilot's first officer.

Balancing Act

In addition to knocking McCain on taxes, Obama questioned his opponent's pledge to balance the budget by 2013, calling it ambitious.

"Not only is it overly ambitious, every independent observer who's looked at John McCain's plan says that his plan would add $200 to $300 billion a year in deficit spending. He hasn't specified how he would bring it down. His own campaign has acknowledged that they don't have specifics."

While Obama criticizes McCain's ambitions, he is careful not to make the same promise, saying, "I do not make a promise that we can reduce it by 2013, because I think it is important for us to make some critical investments right now in America's families."

It's in the Details

Obama ranks a narrow six points higher than McCain, according to a June ABC News/ Washington Post poll. But when it comes to the economy, Obama polls between 15 to 20 points above McCain.

Both candidates proffered remedies to ease the pain of a tough economy on both small businesses and large corporations.

While McCain says he will make it "easier" for small businesses "to grow and create more jobs," he offers no specific plan on how to do so. His opponent for the White House proposes jump-starting the economy with $50 billion in additional stimulus for consumers, and stresses the need to invest in health care and education.

McCain opposes Obama's health care plan, which, he says, would hurt job growth by putting an enormous burden on small employers: "This adds $12,000 to the cost of employing anyone with a family."

Speaking in Raleigh, N.C., in June, Obama said, "My vision involves both a short-term plan to help working families who are struggling to keep up and a long-term agenda to make America competitive in a global economy."

Mathias feels that Obama is focused on educational and health care benefits, in addition to other issues affecting the individual worker. McCain's focus, she posits, is more on spurring the top CEO level within a company, to invest and continue to grow the business.

Oil and Alternative Energy

On the issue of energy, McCain advocates more offshore drilling for oil and the development of more nuclear energy.

"We will build at least 45 new nuclear plants that will create over 700,000 good jobs to construct and operate them," McCain said.

Obama opposes both oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore oil drilling, but he favors the continuing development of alternative energy sources.

The candidates disagree on which alternative energy sources should be pursued.

While speaking in West Virginia last March, Obama claimed more focus should be placed on oil and the current environmental debate, and not the war in Iraq.

"Instead of fighting this war, we could be freeing ourselves from the tyranny of oil, and saving this planet for our children." Obama said.

The differences between the candidates' energy policies is clear-cut, according to Mathias: "McCain is nukes, Obama is more ethanol-focused."

ABC News' Sunlen Miller, Avery Miller and Natalie Gewargis contributed to this report.