White House hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain rejoined battle over the economy Monday as the Democrat headed to the rustbelt state of Michigan to outline his plans to restore US competitiveness.
"Instead of reaching for new horizons, (President) George Bush has put us in a hole, and John McCain's policies will keep us there," the Obama campaign said ahead of a speech by the Illinois senator in Flint, Michigan.
"Barack Obama doesn't think that America should shrink from the challenge of globalization, and we shouldn't fall back on Senator McCain's faith in the tried and failed approaches of George Bush," it said in a memo.
Obama would instead outline "a new direction" for industrial competitiveness built on improved education, energy investment, new infrastructure and a commitment to "fiscal responsibility and fair trade."
In response, McCain supporters pointed to Obama's remark last week that a "gradual adjustment" in gasoline prices would have been preferable to the skyrocketing increase being endured by US drivers, to improve conservation.
"The truth is Barack Obama fought to protect higher taxes on gas, and it flies in the face of working people struggling at the pump -- Michigan doesn't need weak leadership, we need John McCain's record of real reform," said Candice Miller, a Republican Representative from Michigan.
Last week, in their first full week of head-to-head clashes after Hillary Clinton quit the Democratic race, Obama and McCain warred on the economy as Americans reel from home foreclosures, rising fuel prices and job losses.
The Democrats scent opportunity on the economy for November's elections even as McCain tries to portray Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal who would be a dangerous bet for US national security.
John Boehner, the minority leader in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, acknowledged on CNN Sunday that Republicans have "a steep hill to climb" this election year.
But his party's tax-cutting platform was "a much better prescription than what Barack Obama and the liberal Democrats want, which is higher taxes, bigger government in Washington and more control from Washington," Boehner said.
Obama's campaign Monday also kept up the pressure after it emerged that a Texas fundraiser for McCain, oil industry executive Clayton Williams, had once joked in bad taste about rape.
"As long as it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it," Williams had said in 1990, comparing rape to bad weather, during an unsuccessful run for the Texas governor's office.
Media attention recalling the remark forced McCain to cancel a fundraising event at Williams's home on Friday. The event has since reportedly been rescheduled for later in the summer, without the oilman attending.
The Obama campaign noted that McCain was refusing to return more than 300,000 dollars raised by Williams for the Republican's White House bid.
"That's an interesting stand to take as they ramp up their efforts to win over women voters," the Democrat's memo said.
McCain has been assiduously wooing Clinton supporters, some of whom say they would rather vote for the Republican than for the man who beat her in the grueling Democratic primary race.
But an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last week suggested that women favor Obama over McCain by 52 percent to 33 percent. Voters who backed Clinton in the Democratic primaries preferred Obama over McCain by 61 percent to 19.
Clinton meanwhile has said she is not in the running to be Obama's running mate. But former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards says he would have to "seriously" consider another shot at the job if asked by Obama.
"But obviously this is something that I've done and it's not a job I'm seeking," he told ABC News Sunday.