McCain, Obama discuss possible Treasury secretary picks

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) (L) answers a question during his debate with Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee October 7, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama both mentioned investor Warren Buffett as a possible pick for Treasury secretary on Tuesday but both spoke in only general terms about the qualities they would seek for that job.

“It is going to have be somebody who inspires trust and confidence,” McCain, a Republican, said during the second of three debates the two candidates are taking part in ahead of the November 4 election.

McCain, an Arizona senator, also mentioned former eBay chief Meg Whitman for the Treasury job when asked by the debate moderator about some names for the post.

The Treasury pick is always considered key but the job has taken on even more importance amid the Wall Street meltdown and after the approval last week by Congress of a $700 billion bailout package for financial institutions.

Many analysts believe that the winner of White House race might move quickly to make a decision about the Treasury secretary, a post now held by Henry Paulson.

Obama agreed with McCain that Buffett “would be a pretty good choice” but he added there are “other folks out there” who could be considered. Buffett, a billionaire whose financial expertise is widely respected, is a supporter of the Democratic candidate.

Obama, an Illinois senator, said he would want to make sure that the next Treasury secretary shares his view that economic policy should focus on improving living standards for the middle class.

“The key is making sure the next Treasury secretary understands that it is not enough just to help those at the top. We have to help the middle class,” he said.

Reporting by Caren Bohan, Editing by Frances Kerry