Washington, Sept.16 : The financial crisis on Wall Street could derail Republican John McCain's quest for the White House, even though he has recently called for regulatory reform.
"The fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times," he told supporters in Florida, but added that he would take every step necessary to get Wall Street up and running again.
His Democratic opponent Barack Obama pounced on the suggestion that the American economy is strong and resilient.
"Senator McCain, what economy are you talking about?" Obama asked, rhetorically, at a rally in Colorado.
"What's more fundamental than the ability to find a job that can pay the bills and can raise a family? What's more fundamental than knowing your savings are secure ... and you have a roof over your head?" he asked.
McCain, perhaps sensing he had misspoken, offered a clarification later in the day.
"The American worker and their innovation, their entrepreneurship, the small business, those are the fundamentals of America, and I think they're strong. But they are being threatened today. Those fundamentals are being threatened today because of the greed and corruption that some engaged in on Wall Street, and we have got to fix it," the Globe and Mail quoted him, as saying.
The primacy of the economy as the dominant issue in this year's campaign cannot be ignored, says most polls.
In a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, two thirds of respondents said the economy was their top concern. In the past, more voters have said Obama is best qualified to manage the economy, but as support for McCain has increased in recent weeks, confidence in the Arizona senator's ability to handle economic issues also has increased.
Both Obama and McCain agree on the need to impose a new regulatory regime on financial markets to prevent the kind of unsound lending practices that precipitated the crisis. The question is to what extent voters will hold McCain's Republican Party responsible for the cascade of business failures that have shaken the American economy.
As of now, according to the Washington Times, neither of the two presidential candidates has offered any new ideas for ending the financial crisis on Wall Street. McCain has cited his long experience in Washington as a key factor in making him better suited to combat Wall Street's greed and corruption.
Obama has blamed Republican policies for the crisis and claimed he would target aid to middle-class America most hurt by the current financial meltdown. According to the paper, what is clearly evident is that the economic fiasco has outgrown government intervention, and the words of these two candidates has failed to quell a record plunge of the Dow, which apparently didn't care that both presidential candidates openly oppose a sputtering U.S. economy.
Some economists questioned whether there is anything further that either candidate can propose beyond the actions that the Bush administration, the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve have already taken.
The two candidates had been locked in weeks of seemingly petty exchanges.
But with just 50 days to go until Election Day, the two have returned to the issue most voters say is their No. 1 concern: the economy, but who comes out on top is a matter for conjecture for now.