* Wall Street woes add to voters' economic concerns
* McCain says economic fundamentals sound
* Obama blames crisis on Republican economic beliefs
* McCain vows to end running Wall Street like a casino
By Caren Bohan
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo., Sept 15 As fears of a
meltdown jolted Wall Street, U.S. presidential candidates
sparred on Monday over who could best restore financial health,
with John McCain pledging reform and Barack Obama painting him
as out of touch.
The two nominees for the Nov. 4 election focused on the
economy after a weekend of stunning developments reshaped Wall
Street, with venerable investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings
Inc LEH.N moving to bankruptcy and rival Merrill Lynch
MER.N agreeing to be bought by Bank of America (BAC.N).
The broadening financial crisis caused by the weakness in
the U.S. mortgage market prompted global stock markets to
plummet on Monday, even as U.S. officials and the candidates
sought to reassure consumers.
The economy is voters' No. 1 issue and both McCain, a
Republican, and Obama, a Democrat, have sought to address
concerns about high gasoline prices, the credit crunch caused
by the mortgage crisis and increasing joblessness.
It was unclear which candidate voters might be more likely
to turn to in an ongoing climate of economic turmoil. Polls
generally show voters believe Obama would do a better job than
McCain in handling the economy, but his lead on economic issues
has been shrinking.
"The fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are
very, very difficult times and I promise you we will never put
America in this position again," McCain told a rally in
Jacksonville in the electoral battleground state of Florida.
"We're going to reform the way Wall Street does business
and put an end to the greed that has driven our markets into
chaos," he told an Orlando rally. "We'll put an end to running
Wall Street like a casino."
Obama blamed the crisis on Republican opposition to
sensible market regulation -- a philosophy he said McCain
shared -- and ridiculed his rival's statement that the
country's economic fundamentals were sound.
"He just doesn't get what's happening between the mountain
in Sedona where he lives and the corridors of power where he
works," Obama told a rally in Grand Junction, Colorado. "Why
else would he say today of all days ... that the fundamentals
of the economy are still strong?"
"Sen. McCain, what economy are you talking about?" he
The McCain camp shot back, accusing Obama of distorting his
comments. McCain himself later attempted to clarify his
comment, saying that when he spoke about the economic
fundamentals being strong, he meant the American worker,
innovation, entrepreneurship and small business.
"Those are the fundamentals of America and I think they're
strong," he said. "But they are being threatened today."
Obama described the situation facing Wall Street as "the
most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression."
"I certainly don't fault Sen. McCain for these problems.
But I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to," he
said. "It's a philosophy that says even common-sense
regulations are unnecessary and unwise."
Obama and McCain both said they did not favor a
taxpayer-funded bailout of Lehman Brothers, despite earlier
government intervention to take over mortgage giants Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac and to facilitate the sale of investment bank
Obama has long called for an overhaul of Wall Street
regulations, saying the subprime housing crisis and other
problems stemmed in part from lack of transparency and
accountability in the financial system.
"The challenges facing our financial system today are more
evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street
weren't minding the store," he said.
McCain, whose economic message usually focuses more on his
promise to keep taxes low and reduce government spending, put
more than his usual emphasis on Monday on the need for
His campaign released an ad titled "crisis" that promised
tougher rules covering Wall Street to protect citizens'
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Orlando; writing by
David Alexander; editing by David Wiessler)