McCain says auto industry must be saved

WASHINGTON Fri Oct 31, 2008 9:21am EDT

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) waves to the crowd before boarding the ''Straight Talk Express'' campaign bus after a campaign stop in downtown Tiffin, Ohio October 30, 2008. Senator McCain is on a two-day, campaign-bus tour through the state of Ohio. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) waves to the crowd before boarding the ''Straight Talk Express'' campaign bus after a campaign stop in downtown Tiffin, Ohio October 30, 2008. Senator McCain is on a two-day, campaign-bus tour through the state of Ohio.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Friday the struggling U.S. auto industry could not be allowed to fail, and if elected president he would do "whatever I think needs to be done" to save it.

But interviewed on U.S. television network ABC's Good Morning America show, he remained cautious about proposals for a government bailout of the industry.

He said the focus should be on disbursing $25 billion in low-interest loans already authorized by the U.S. Congress to help the auto industry retool to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"We have delayed getting them that money," McCain said of the industry that saw September sales drop 27 percent from a year earlier.

He spoke after the Bush administration on Thursday appeared to rebuff pleas by six state governors and a group of chief executives for more direct government intervention to shore up the industry.

"I would do whatever I think needs to be done to help out the auto industry. We need to keep this industry alive," said McCain, who is trailing Democratic challenger Barack Obama in the polls ahead of Tuesday's election.

(Reporting by Ross Colvin, Editing by Kristin Roberts/Jeffrey Benkoe)

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