Candidates seek political gain in economic crisis

John McCain and Barack Obama combined televised attack ads with statesmanlike appeals for bipartisanship Tuesday as they vied for political gain in the shadow of the economic crisis.

Both men spoke privately with President Bush about the collapse of the financial industry, then publicly made clear their differences with him, McCain more gently than his Democratic rival.

The Republican, campaigning in Iowa, pointedly told reporters there were steps the administration could still take “with the stroke of the pen to help alleviate the crisis gripping our economy. I urge them to do so.”

McCain mentioned using a federal stabilization fund to back uninsured money market accounts. The Treasury Department is already using the fund to guarantee money market mutual funds, which were the only uninsured money market accounts. Treasury announced that program Sept. 19 after the failure of Lehman Bros. produced a surge of withdrawals from such funds.

The GOP candidate also suggested wielding authority to purchase $1 trillion in mortgages. A housing bill Bush signed July 30 included $300billion in new loan authority for the government to back cheaper mortgages for troubled homeowners. The failed bailout bill would have added another $700 billion in authority to deal with troubled housing investments.

In addition, first Obama and then McCain said Congress should raise the current federal deposit insurance limit of $100,000 to $250,000.

Obama's campaign released a new commercial critical of the administration and his campaign rival at the same time. “The old trickle-down theory has failed us,” the Illinois senator said in the ad. “We can't afford four more years like the last eight.”

Obama has been gaining in numerous national and swing-state polls in recent days, while McCain has appeared to struggle since he announced a brief suspension in his campaign appearances to help solve the crisis.

He announced the pause a week ago, saying he would fly to Washington and stay there until a solution was found. Three days later, he reversed course and flew to Mississippi for last Friday's long-scheduled campaign debate.

He sidestepped one interviewer during the day who asked whether he would suspend his campaign once again. “I'll do whatever is necessary and whatever my Republican colleagues and the administration and others ask me to do,” McCain replied.

Aides said a return to Washington was likely in the next day or two, and McCain's travel plans were being made less than a day in advance as he awaited developments in the Capitol.

Obama campaigned in Nevada.

The day began with both presidential rivals emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and offering suggestions for easing the crisis.

“At this moment, when the jobs, retirement savings, and economic security of all Americans hang in the balance, it is imperative that all of us – Democrats and Republicans alike – come together to meet this crisis,” Obama said.

McCain spoke at a campaign roundtable a few hours later.

“I call on everyone in Washington to come together in a bipartisan way to address this crisis. I know that many of the solutions to this problem may be unpopular, but the dire consequences of inaction will be far more damaging to the economic security of American families and the fault will be all ours,” he said.