John McCain's White House campaign Monday dragged rival Barack Obama back to the domestic fray, scorning his economic plan as a recipe to plunge the United States into a 1930s-style depression.
Top aides to the Republican senator vied to steal the thunder from an illustrious panel of economic advisors being convened by Obama -- and recapture some of the headlines after the Democrat's much-acclaimed foreign tour.
But with fewer than 100 days now to go before the November 4 election, Obama had opened up a nine-point lead in the latest Gallup poll released Sunday -- 49 percent to 40 for McCain.
Carly Fiorina, a key lieutenant to McCain and former boss of computing giant Hewlett-Packard, said a recession triggered by the 1929 Wall Street crash became a depression through the imposition of higher taxes and trade barriers.
"The reality is when an economy is slowing, if you raise taxes and you curtail free trade through isolationist policies, bad economic times become worse," she told reporters.
"We know this from history... and that is precisely the proposal that Barack Obama is making," Fiorina said.
"And that is why I say as a businesswoman, I hope Barack Obama continues to consult with experts because I think his understanding of the economy leaves a great deal to be desired."
Obama, basking in the afterglow of his triumphant tour of Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, was to pivot from that security-themed week to addressing the gathering cloud engulfing the world's largest economy.
His high-powered panel of advisors meeting later Monday includes former treasury secretary Robert Rubin, ex-Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Google chairman Eric Schmidt.
Campaign aides told AFP that two former top members of President George W. Bush's administration -- treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and Securities and Exchange commissioner William Donaldson -- were joining the Obama panel.
"Participants in today's meeting will discuss how to restore balance to the economy so that entrepreneurship is encouraged and hard work is rewarded," a campaign memo said.
The Democratic senator from Illinois has laid out proposals for middle-class tax cuts while levying higher taxes on the rich, new federal stimulus spending, and additional measures to prop up the stricken housing market.
The Obama campaign accuses McCain of fuzzy arithmetic on his own vows to cut taxes across the board, balance the budget and sustain a hefty US military presence in Iraq.
And it has ridiculed McCain's admission last December that he knows more about national security than about the economy.
The Arizona senator suffered a setback just over a week ago with the resignation of his own top economic adviser, Phil Gramm, after the former senator had called the United States a "nation of whiners" over the economy.
"What is driving people all across the country right now are worries and concerns about inability to pay the gas bill, inability to buy food because prices have gone up so high," Obama told NBC television Sunday.
"We've got to fundamentally shift how we approach economic policy," he said, with polls giving Obama a commanding lead over McCain on the bread-and-butter issues that are now the top concern to US voters.
Despite McCain's calls for a hands-off approach from the government, there is a new appetite for intervention in Congress as voters reel from job losses, home seizures and rocketing fuel prices.
The Senate on Saturday approved a housing rescue plan designed to help thousands of homeowners avert foreclosure and bolster mortgage finance giants at risk of collapse. Bush is set to sign the bill into law this week.