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STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - Republican nominee John McCain yesterday used a post-debate appearance in suburban Cleveland to distance himself from President Bush while arguing that he's more in touch with the problems of the working class than Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
To prove it, he trumpeted the $300 billion home mortgage buyout proposal that he surprised viewers with during Tuesday's second debate.
"The American dream of owning a home should not be crushed under the weight of a bad mortgage. The moment requires that government act, and as president I intend to act quickly and decisively," Mr. McCain told roughly 3,000 packed into a Strongsville recreation center.
Mr. McCain said his plan would complement and possibly share dollars with the $700 billion bailout of financial institutions approved by Congress and President Bush last week. But this plan would target the homeowner rather than his bank.
Using the just-nationalized Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae as lenders, the government would buy high-interest mortgages and refinance them at lower fixed rates over 30 years. The taxpayer would make up the cash-value difference between the old and new interest rates.
During Tuesday's debate, Mr. Obama repeatedly argued that a vote for Mr. McCain would be a vote for the policies of the current, highly unpopular President. Yesterday, Mr. McCain stressed that the President, whom he referred to as the "status quo," is not on the ballot.
"You know, Senator Obama and I both have differences with how President Bush has handled the economy," he said. "But he thinks taxes are too low, and I think spending is too high.According to third-party estimates, Barack Obama will increase government spending by over $860 billion.
"That's on top of the trillions in debt that we've already burdened our children and grandchildren with. He claimed last night that he's somehow going to decrease spending. Only Barack Obama can spin an $860 billion federal spending increase as a spending reduction."
Mr. McCain was introduced by Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn. Noting that his father served in Vietnam where Mr. McCain was a prisoner of war, Mr. Quinn called the Arizona senator the "real hero."
While early polls of those who watched Tuesday's debate suggested more thought Mr. Obama won, Mr. McCain and running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin saw it differently.
"Pretty good last night, huh?'" Mr. McCain said to cheers.
Mrs. Palin noted Mr. McCain had wanted Mr. Obama to participate in 10 town-hall meetings. "Our opponent said no and now we know why," she said. "John McCain won. The truth won out, and the path to victory in 27 days is clear."
Marge Naumann, 69, of Lakewood was in the crowd. She wasn't sure who emerged the debate winner, but her vote belongs to Mr. McCain. "My grandson's in the Navy, and he's on his way to the Gulf right now," she said. "I trust John McCain with my grandson's life. Anybody can talk. Some people have a gift to talk, and absolutely Obama has that. But I would be devastated if he wins, because I don't trust him."
Jason Furman, Mr. Obama's economic policy director, blasted Mr. McCain's mortgage buyout proposal. "Now that he's finally released the details of his plan, it turns out it's even more costly and out-of-touch than we ever imagined," he said. "John McCain wants the government to massively overpay for mortgages in a plan that would guarantee taxpayers lose money, and put them at risk of losing even more if home values don't recover.
"The biggest beneficiaries of this plan will be the same financial institutions that got us into this mess, some of whom even committed fraud," he alleged.
Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama supported the bailout package.
But McCain senior policy adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin said Mr. McCain's plan would help the homeowner and dam the flood of foreclosures that has dragged down housing values.
Mr. Obama's campaign had criticized the GOP nominee for not offering a plan to address the skyrocketing foreclosure rates plaguing states such as Ohio.
Mr. Holtz-Eakin dismissed the suggestion that the proposal should have been offered two weeks ago when it might have been included in talks on the bailout.
"The primary objective with the efforts put into the bill itself was to make sure the process involved all of the relevant parties," Mr. Holtz-Eakin said. "He did not advocate for any particular proposal other than for his broad principles."
Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin headed for Wisconsin after the rally, but Mrs. Palin will be back today in Ohio for a rally. Tomorrow, she will headline a private fund-raiser in Cincinnati postponed last month.
Mr. Obama will launch a two-day bus tour today, rallying in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Portsmouth, and then in Chillicothe and Columbus tomorrow.
His campaign said he plans to set up debate camp in the Toledo area for next week's final presidential debate in New York.
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