MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday accused rival John McCain of giving up on people who have lost jobs in the economically depressed state of Michigan as the Republicans' wide-open campaign turned to the faltering economy.
Romney, in danger of losing Michigan to McCain in next Tuesday's vote, quickly went on the attack against the Arizona senator at a debate, noting McCain had said in Michigan on Wednesday that the people there should realize some lost jobs will never return.
"I know that there are some people who think, as Sen. McCain did, he said, you know, some jobs are leaving Michigan and they're not coming back. I disagree. I'm going to fight for every single job, Michigan, South Carolina, every state in this country, we're going to fight for jobs and make sure our future is bright," said Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts whose family has deep ties to Michigan.
McCain, who has some momentum based on his victory in New Hampshire on Tuesday, hopes to score a knock-out punch against Romney in Michigan. He leads Romney in the polls there.
McCain refused to back down at the Fox News Channel debate just over a week before South Carolina Republicans vote for their choice to determine which candidate will face the Democratic choice in the November election to succeed President George W. Bush.
"There are some jobs that aren't coming back to Michigan," McCain said. "There are some jobs that won't come back to South Carolina, but we're going to take care of them. That's our job, that's our obligation," McCain said.
The 71-year-old McCain's New Hampshire win gave his once-struggling campaign new life and put him in the midst of a wild scramble for the Republican nomination that has produced no clear favorite.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Jeremy Pelofsky, Andy Sullivan and Jason Szep in South Carolina; Editing by David Alexander)
(For more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)