It's the economy in Ohio, Pennsylvania

John McCain and Barack Obama sparred Monday over who will rescue the nation from economic calamity, and they shaped their closing arguments in two of the largest battleground states – Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“With one week left in this campaign, the choice facing Americans is stark,” McCain said in Cleveland after meeting with economic advisers. “Our plan will create jobs. His plan to raise taxes … will cut jobs. It's a difference of millions of jobs… and Americans are beginning to figure that out.”

Obama, speaking in Canton, said he would not raise taxes on any family that earns less than $250,000 a year and that providing tax relief for the middle class would help restore the economy.

“The question in this election is not ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?' We know the answer to that,” Obama said.

“The real question is, ‘Will this country be better off four years from now?'

McCain, like every Republican presidential candidate since at least Ronald Reagan, posits that tax cuts primarily benefiting the wealthy and business are the best way to achieve economic growth.

Obama, like most Democrats, decries that approach as “trickle-down economics” that benefits the wealthy disproportionately while shortchanging everyone else.

He calls instead for tax relief for the broadly defined middle class, in the belief that spreading the gains will boost consumer-driven economic growth.

To come from behind, McCain needs to win Ohio, which boosted Bush over the total Electoral College votes he needed to win in 2004. He also wants to win Pennsylvania. But recent polls show he lags in both states.

Obama is taking nothing for granted, though, given his weak showing among white working-class voters against Hillary Clinton in both state primaries.

In Pennsylvania, Obama leads McCain by an average of more than 11 points, according to RealClearPolitics.

Even so, the Illinois senator planned a rally Monday night in Pittsburgh and a stop this morning outside Philadelphia.

In Kettering, Ohio, McCain jumped on the news of a 7-year-old radio interview in which Obama expressed regret that the civil-rights movement failed to develop coalitions that could achieve more fundamental changes of political and economic justice, including the redistribution of wealth.

“That is what change means for the Obama administration, the redistributor: It means taking your money and giving it to someone else,” McCain said.

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton responded: “Americans know that the real choice in this election is between four more years of Bush-McCain policies that redistribute billions to billionaires and big corporations, and Barack Obama's plan to help the middle class by giving tax relief to 95 percent of workers and companies that create new jobs here in America.“