LAKE WORTH, Florida (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama focused on the ailing economy in Florida on Tuesday, meeting with a panel of advisers and accusing Republican rival John McCain of fumbling his response to the financial crisis.
At a gathering that included former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and a group of key swing-state governors, Obama again linked McCain with the policies of President George W. Bush.
“Instead of common-sense solutions, month after month, they’ve offered little more than willful ignorance, wishful thinking and outdated ideology,” Obama told supporters in the key swing state of Florida before a public chat with the panel at his “economic summit.”
McCain made a campaign visit to Pennsylvania, where some polls show him trailing Obama by double digits with just two weeks to go before the November 4 election, and questioned Obama’s readiness for the White House.
For the second consecutive day, McCain noted the weekend prediction of Obama’s running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, that an international crisis would test Obama’s mettle during his first six months in office.
“We know Senator Obama won’t have the right response,” the Arizona senator said in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. “We’ve seen the wrong response from him over and over during this campaign.”
At a later campaign stop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the former Navy fighter pilot recalled serving on an aircraft carrier during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
“My friends, you know how close we came to a nuclear war? America will not have a president who needs to be tested. I’ve been tested,” McCain said.
McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have aggressively tried to raise doubts about the first-term senator from Illinois as the campaign heads into its final two weeks with polls showing Obama in the lead.
“I want a president who’s ready on Day One,” Palin told supporters in Reno, Nevada. “I want a president with the experience and the judgment and the wisdom to meet the next international crisis -- or better yet to avoid it.”
Obama aides said Biden was merely stating the obvious -- that any new U.S. president will face a crisis.
“Joe Biden is a plain-spoken guy,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said on MSNBC. “And what he was saying was something that’s obvious. We have an economy that’s in crisis. We’re fighting two wars around the world.”
A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll on Tuesday gave Obama an 8-point national edge, 50 percent to 42 percent, but a flood of polls in key battleground states like Florida and Ohio showed Obama and McCain in tight battles.
On the second day of a tour of Florida, Obama convened an economic panel that included governors of other key swing states like Michigan, Ohio, New Mexico and Colorado.
“A crisis like this calls for the best ideas, the brightest minds, the most innovative solutions from every corner of this country,” Obama said.
Obama has criticized McCain and Republicans for pushing for the sort of deregulation of the U.S. financial industry that helped feed the crisis and precipitated a $700 billion bailout of financial institutions.
Volcker said Wall Street “screwed things up a bit” and said the next president would face a challenge in weaning the banking system of the public money it had absorbed to keep it afloat.
“We’ve got to rebuild this system from the ground up, so that never again is the whole economy threatened by a default on Wall Street,” Volcker said at the event, held before about 1,800 supporters.
“This is not a partisan matter. This is a problem that has to be dealt with in a nonpartisan way,” he said.
After the economic summit, Obama visited one of his campaign offices in Ft. Lauderdale on his way to an evening rally in Miami. He thanked the volunteers for their hard work.
“You’re really the foundation of this campaign,” Obama told several dozen people packed into a small room cluttered with signs and pamphlets about early voting in Florida.
“We’ve got two more weeks. We cannot let up one bit,” he said to cheers and applause.
Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by David Wiessler