John McCain, struggling to strike the right note amid roiling financial markets and a Wall Street restructuring, released a new television ad Wednesday asserting he is the right leader to keep Americans' savings safe in the future.
"Enough is enough," says the commercial. "I'll meet this financial crisis head on. Reform Wall Street. New rules for fairness and honesty. I won't tolerate a system that puts you and your family at risk. Your savings, your jobs - I'll keep them safe."
The early-morning release of the ad and its rapid production - it was taped during a 10-minute stop at a home in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday - highlight the Republican presidential contender's efforts to reclaim the high ground on a subject he has acknowledged is a weakness.
Democratic rival Barack Obama accused him of being tone-deaf for proclaiming Monday that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."
Barely three hours later, the Arizona senator was backtracking, telling another audience, "The American economy is in a crisis."
He also tried to turn his muffed analysis into a positive, striking a populist chord.
"The economic crisis is not the fault of the American people," he said during a town hall meeting in Orlando, Fla. "Our workers are the most innovative, the hardest working, the best skilled, the most productive, the most competitive in the world. That's the American worker. And my opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals - the American worker, their innovation, their entrepreneurship, their small business - those are the fundamentals of America, and I think they are strong."
On Tuesday, McCain was back at it, promoting his message on six morning television appearances.
He underscored his concern for the working public with a declaration bound to cause him angst today. He said flatly he would not support a bailout for the American International Group Inc., the country's largest corporate insurer.
"We cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else," the senator said on NBC's "Today" show. "This is something that we're going to have to work through. There's too much corruption, there's too much excess. We can fix it."
Yet by day's end, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and congressional leaders had agreed to an $85 billion AIG bailout plan.
A top McCain adviser said early Wednesday that campaign policy aides were analyzing the situation and drafting a response.
Amid the backpedaling and midcourse corrections, McCain has worked to regain the initiative.
A top economics adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said early Tuesday that Obama was trying to exploit the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fire sale of Merrill Lynch and the refinancing of AIG.
"The story line that people want to write, that somehow McCain himself or the McCain campaign doesn't understand what's going on in the country is just wrong; we do. But you shouldn't run for president by denigrating everything in sight and trying to scare people," said Holtz-Eakin.
McCain later threw out his standard rally speech before audiences Tuesday in Tampa and Vienna, Ohio, to deliver a lengthy statement about the economy.
"Too many people on Wall Street have been recklessly wagering instead of making the sound investments we expect of them," the senator said in Florida. "I can assure you if I'm president, we're not going to tolerate that any more."
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