McCain faces uphill battle on economy
Republican presidential candidate John
McCain's struggle to convince US voters that he feels their financial pain just
got even more difficult, after a top economic advisor to his campaign suggested
the US slowdown was all in people's minds.
Phil Gramm, a former Republican senator from Texas, told The Washington Times this week that the United States had become a "nation of whiners" amid continuing fears of a possible recession in the United States.
"You've heard of mental depression - this is a mental recession," Gramm told the paper on Wednesday. He has since refused to retract his remarks.
McCain quickly distanced himself from Gramm, a long-time advisor and friend, in the hopes of not alienating US voters who have consistently rated the nation's economy as their top concern in opinion polls.
"Phil Gramm does not speak for me. I speak for me. So, I strongly disagree," McCain told reporters on Thursday, after a Michigan gathering in which he repeatedly spoke of the real pain suffered by Americans in the current economic crisis.
Democratic rival Barack Obama jumped on the remarks, telling a rally that the nation's economic woes are "not just a figment of your imagination - it's not all in your heads when people are struggling with the rising cost of everything from gas to groceries."
Both McCain and Obama have aggressively talked up their economic plans in recent weeks, clashing on everything from taxes and the budget deficit, to securing social security, to surging petrol prices and other energy costs that have left many Americans reconsidering their summer holiday plans.
McCain already faced an uphill battle on the issue. Asked who can better manage the economy, Obama currently holds a 16-point edge over McCain, who in contrast polls better than Obama on the issue of terrorism, according to a recent Gallup poll.
With an unpopular Republican president currently in the White House, nearly 80 per cent of Americans hold negative views of the economy and a majority believe the US has entered a recession. The US economy grew by 1 per cent in the first quarter of 2008.
Obama has routinely attacked McCain for touting the failed economic policies of President George W Bush. McCain charges that Obama will raise taxes.
McCain, a senator from Arizona, has also regularly suffered for a moment of honesty early in the presidential campaign when he admitted the economy was not his strong suit.
But Obama faces his own questions over his economic prowess given a lack of executive experience. Obama was elected to the US Senate in 2004 by Illinois.
Both candidates may be looking to shore up their economic credentials by picking a running mate with a strong background on the topic.
For McCain, some have tipped former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. A one-time governor of Massachusetts, Romney also ran a management consulting firm and headed the 2002 Winter Olympics organization.
Obama could look to Christopher Dodd, a veteran senator who chairs the Senate's banking committee, or any number of Democratic governors around the country, dpa reported.