McCain, Obama wrangle over 'socialist' tax policies

— -- The two presidential contenders, campaigning in key battleground states Wednesday, traded barbsover Barack Obama's plan to roll back tax cuts on wealthy Americans, which John McCain says smacks of socialism.

McCain, stumping in Goffstown, N.H., hammered at Obama for what he said was the Democrat's desire to "spread the wealth" by taking money from some taxpayers and giving it to others.

"The redistribution of wealth is the last thing American needs right now," McCain said. The Arizona senator and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have linked such policies to socialism.

In Richmond Wednesday, Obama hit back, saying the socialism charge was "not a very plausible argument."

"Was John McCain a socialist back in 2000," when he opposed President Bush's proposals? Obama asked at a news conference.

"I think it's an indication that they have run out of ideas," he said.

McCain, whose flagging primary campaign in January was rescued by a first-place finish in New Hampshire, traveled to the Granite State Wednesday in hopes that it could once again deliver a come-from-behind victory.

With national polls showing the Republican candidate trailing his Democratic rival by 6 to 12 points, McCain cast himself as the fighting underdog.

"It doesn't matter what the pundits think or how confident my opponent is, the people of New Hampshire make their own decision," he told a cheering crowd. "And more than once they have ignored the polls and pundits and brought me across the finish line first."

Although recent polls have also shown the Arizona senator lagging as much as 7 points behind in New Hampshire, his campaign denied speculation that he may have to pull out to put his resources into other battleground states.

Senior adviser Mark Salter said McCain was visiting New Hampshire because "we get a charge out of it. We think we're competitive there. They get it."

Obama, meanwhile, campaigned in the traditional Republican stronghold of Virginia, with stops in Richmond, and in Leesburg, in northern Virginia.

While in the Virginia capital, the Illinois senator also met with a group of national security advisers to the campaign.

Palin campaigned in Ohio, including a joint appearance with McCain in Cincinnati. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., Obama's running mate, stumped in Colorado.

In other developments:

• Palin, in an interview posted online Wednesday, told James Dobson of "Focus on the Family" that she is "not discouraged at all" by polls showing the Republican ticket behind.

"To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder," she told Dobson. "And it also strengthens my faith because I know at the end of the day putting this in God's hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4."

•The McCain campaign said thousands of dollars worth of clothing purchased by the Republican Party for Palin will go to a "charitable purpose" after the campaign.

The Republican National Committee spent about $150,000 on clothing, hair styling, makeup and other "campaign accessories" in September for the McCain campaign after Palin, the governor of Alaska, joined the ticket.

•Al-Qaeda supporters suggested in a website message this week they would welcome a pre-election terror attack on the United States as a way to usher in a McCain presidency.

The message, posted Monday on the password-protected al-Hesbah website, said if al-Qaeda wants to exhaust the United States militarily and economically, McCain is the better choice because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This requires presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the war until the last American soldier," the message said. "Then, al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming elections so that he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush." SITE Intelligence Group, based in Bethesda, Md., monitors the website and translated the message.

Contributing" Douglas Stanglin in McLean, Va.; The Associated Press