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Bleak jobs report provides backdrop for candidates

McCain and Obama tout their economic policies as the unemployment rate hits 5-year high.

September 07, 2008|From Reuters

CEDARBURG, WIS. — Presidential rivals John McCain and Barack Obama, back on the campaign trail after their party conventions, clashed over the ailing U.S. economy Friday as unemployment hit its highest monthly rate in nearly five years.

Hours after accepting the Republican nomination, McCain and running mate Sarah Palin opened a two-month sprint to the Nov. 4 presidential election in Wisconsin while Democrat Obama headed to Pennsylvania as both sides touted cures for the economy.

A new report showed the U.S. jobless rate shot up to 6.1% in August, adding to worries about an economy that opinion polls show was already the top concern for American voters.

"These are tough times," McCain told a crowd of about 12,000 in the Milwaukee suburb of Cedarburg. "Today the jobs report is another reminder.

"All you've ever asked of government is to stand on your side, not in your way, and that's what I intend to do," the Arizona senator said, pledging to keep taxes low and cut them where possible. He promised to retrain workers and enact an economic plan that would create jobs.

McCain, who later picked up the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police union, criticized Obama's tax proposals, which include a large tax cut for lower- and middle-class workers but would increase taxes for the wealthiest Americans. "The American people cannot afford a Barack Obama presidency," he said in the statement.

Obama, an Illinois senator, said the job losses showed the need for change in the economic approach used by President Bush since he came into office in 2001.

Speaking to workers at a glass and lens manufacturer in Duryea, Pa., and chatting with customers while eating banana cream pie at The Avenue Diner in Wyoming, Pa., Obama chided McCain for failing to address the economy at the Republican convention.

"You would think George Bush and his potential Republican successor John McCain would be spending a lot of time worrying about the economy, all these jobs that are being lost on their watch," Obama said.

"But if you watched the Republican National Convention over the last three days, you wouldn't know that," he said. "We the have highest unemployment rate in five years, but they didn't say a thing about what is going on with the middle class."

Obama touted his own plans for boosting the U.S. economy, saying he would enact tax cuts that would benefit 95% of Americans, end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and make health care more affordable.

The renewed battle on the economy came the day after McCain's acceptance speech concluded the Republican convention. Obama accepted the Democratic nod at his party's convention the week before.

Republican vice presidential candidate Palin, who repeatedly ridiculed Obama during her convention speech, campaigned with McCain in Wisconsin, again taking on the role of attacker by blasting Obama for his stance on the Iraq war.

The next big campaign event is the first of three debates, on Sept. 26 in Oxford, Mississippi.

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