RENO, Nevada (Reuters) - White House contenders Barack Obama and John McCain sought to persuade skeptical Americans on Tuesday to back a $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan, warning they face economic calamity if there is no deal.
So far Democrat Obama and Republican McCain have had little impact on the debate surrounding the Wall Street rescue, which was torpedoed in the House of Representatives on Monday.
A day after Obama and McCain blamed each other for contributing to the collapse of the legislation, each stressed the need for both parties to work together to try to reach an agreement palatable to some of the 95 Democrats and 133 Republicans who combined to defeat the bailout.
And they both encouraged Americans to back a Wall Street bailout because, as McCain said in Des Moines, Iowa, “inaction is not an option.”
A new poll by the Pew Research Center found weakening public support for the bailout. The September 27-29 survey said Americans only backed the plan by a 45 percent to 38 percent margin.
Obama told thousands at an outdoor rally in Reno, “It is not a time for politicians to concern themselves with the next election. It is a time for all of us to concern ourselves with the future of the country we love. This is a time for action.”
Both Obama and McCain said they backed lifting the limit on bank deposit insurance from the current maximum of $100,000 to $250,000 as a way to restore confidence and prevent potentially
Each candidate had a telephone conversation with President George W. Bush about the crisis.
“I will be talking to leaders and members of Congress later today to offer this idea and urge them to act without delay to pass a rescue plan,” Obama said in an e-mailed statement to reporters.
McCain said he believed one reason Congress did not approve the package was because “it hasn’t really sunk in that the people who are hurting and are being hurt are Main Street families, small businesses, those kinds of people that are the engine of our economy.”
Illinois Sen. Obama and Arizona Sen. McCain are trying to use the current crisis to project leadership.
Democrats accused McCain of interfering last week when he suspended his campaign and flew to Washington to participate in bailout negotiations that ended in disarray.
Opinion polls show Americans trust Obama more to handle the economy, helping him jump out to a slight advantage over McCain with election day five weeks away on November 4.
McCain has suggested some short-term steps to stem the crisis, such as broadening the use of the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund, a Depression-era fund that was used in the mid-1990s to help Mexico through a financial crisis. The Bush administration is already tapping it to help money market funds.
Marathon talks among Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Capitol Hill negotiators produced a deal over the weekend for a $700 billion bailout bill that included some provisions sought by lawmakers of both parties that would allow the government to recoup some of the cost of the rescue.
When that deal was announced, Obama and McCain gave it only cautious backing.
On Tuesday, amid the market turbulence and concerns about a deepening world-wide financial crisis, the presidential contenders stepped up their support for the package and pledged to do what they could to try to get it passed.
Obama said that “continued inaction in the face of the gathering storm in our financial markets would be catastrophic for our economy and our families.”
He also said he believed a move to try to start over from scratch with a new bill would not succeed and said lawmakers instead should try to find ways to broaden support for the current bill.
Neither candidate announced immediate plans to alter their campaign schedules. Obama was planning a rally later on Tuesday and was then to fly to Wisconsin.
McCain was planning to fly from Iowa to Kansas City, Missouri.
But he did not rule out a change in plans.
“I will put my presidential campaign on the back burner, if necessary, and do anything,” McCain told Fox News. “I’ll do whatever is necessary that I think can be effective.”
Additional reporting by Deborah Charles and Jeff Mason; Writing by Caren Bohan; editing by David Wiessler