Obama moves ahead in polls as economy hurts McCain


US:THE TURMOIL on Wall Street continued to dominate the US presidential campaign over the weekend as the Democratic and Republican camps traded barbs in advance of Barack Obama and John McCain's first national televised debate scheduled for later this week, writes Mary Fitzgerald, Foreign Affairs Correspondent, in New York.

As both candidates prepare for the debate in Mississippi on Friday, polls show that Barack Obama has moved ahead as John McCain struggles to correct the impression he has fumbled in his response to the economic crisis.

Mr Obama went on the stump in North Carolina yesterday, fresh from claiming at rallies in Florida on Saturday that Mr McCain was panicking as a result of the financial upheaval.

The latest figures show Mr Obama is now in front, polling 50 per cent to Mr McCain's 44 per cent. Some polls have shown more voters trust Mr Obama with the economy, though others show Mr McCain on top when voters were asked which candidate could better handle a crisis.

In North Carolina and Florida, Mr Obama seized on the reeling economy to attack his rival on issues ranging from social security to healthcare and government reform. Blaming Republican policies for the current crisis, Mr Obama told supporters in Charlotte yesterday: "We're now seeing the disastrous consequences of this philosophy all around us, on Wall Street as well as main street . . . Yet Senator McCain, who candidly admitted not long ago that he doesn't know as much about economics as he should, wants to keep going down the same disastrous path."

At campaign events in Florida, the Democratic candidate was careful to tailor his message for the state's large number of retired people. Noting that Mr McCain backed President Bush's failed plans to privatize social security retirement funds, Mr Obama argued that had such a system been in place last week millions would have seen their nest eggs vanish.

"I know Senator McCain is talking about a casino culture on Wall Street, but the fact is he's the one who wants to gamble with your life savings," he said.

But the McCain camp shot back, accusing the Democratic candidate of using "scare tactics and deceit". With polls showing voters are more concerned about their own financial circumstances than any other issue in the 2008 presidential campaign, the McCain camp is faced with the challenge of squaring the Arizona senator's long record of advocating corporate and financial deregulation with the vagaries of the current economic climate.