ESPANOLA, N.M. (AP) -- Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama promised fresh ideas Thursday to calm America's financial meltdown and help struggling families avoid mortgage foreclosure, saying "this is not a time for fear, it's not a time for panic."
Obama also heaped criticism and sarcasm on Republican rival John McCain and mocked his promise to fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission if elected.
"I think that's all fine and good but here's what I think," Obama said. "In the next 47 days you can fire the whole trickle-down, on-your-own, look-the-other way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path.
"Don't just get rid of one guy. Get rid of this administration," he said. "Get rid of this philosophy. Get rid of the do-nothing approach to our economic problem and put somebody in there who's going to fight for you."
Obama came up with yet another way to poke fun at McCain for his comment Monday that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. "This comment was so out of touch that even George Bush's White House couldn't agree with it when they were asked about it. They had to distance themselves from John McCain."
President Bush has used the same language many times but his press secretary would not repeat the line Wednesday in the face of historic financial turbulence.
With the economy rocketing to the front of the campaign agenda, Obama said he would unveil new proposals Friday in Florida. Senior members of his economic team were flying to Miami to meet with Obama before his announcement.
Obama also had telephone discussions Thursday about the financial markets with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Fed chief Paul Volcker and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.
Summers and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin were among those expected in Florida for Friday's meeting. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and former Bush administration Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill were to participate by telephone, along with O'Neill and others.
Obama's stop in northern New Mexico's Rio Arriba County was aimed at energizing the Hispanic vote, which is crucial for his hopes of carrying this state. New Mexico voted for George W. Bush in 2004 but Democrat John Kerry got 65 percent of the vote in Rio Arriba. The county is about 73 percent Hispanic and 12 percent Native American, according to the 2000 Census.
Gov. Bill Richardson, warming up the crowd in a community plaza, said the Hispanic vote in tossup states Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada "is going to decide this election." Obama visited each of those states, along with California, on his Western swing and then was heading to Florida for two days of campaigning. He ended the day at an Albuquerque fundraiser that hosts said raised more than $1.7 million.
"I told Sen. Obama just moments ago that we can guarantee in Rio Arriba 102 percent of the vote," Richardson joked.
Saying that McCain strongly advocated deregulation and then changed his mind, Obama said, "We can't afford to lurch back and forth between positions depending on the latest news of the day when dealing with an economic crisis.
"We need some clear and steady leadership and that's why I was ahead of the curve in calling for regulation," he said. "And that's why I'm calling on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to use their emergency authorities to maintain the flow of credit, to support the availability of mortgages and to ensure that our financial system is well capitalized."
In response, McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said, "When Barack Obama came to Washington, he chose to strengthen his ties to spiraling lenders like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their jet-set CEOs, not make change. The American people cannot afford leadership that puts a higher premium on campaign contributions than protecting hardworking Americans."
Briefly outlining his proposals, he said he would call for a Homeowner and Financial Support Act "that would establish a more stable and permanent solution than the daily improvisations that have characterized policy making over the past year."
He said his measures would provide capital to the financial system, insure liquidity to allow the financial markets to function and "get serious about helping struggling families to restructure their mortgages on affordable terms so they can stay in their homes."
The new proposals were intended to demonstrate that Obama is the candidate who would bring change, not just promise it, and that he has the ideas to prove it.
"Everywhere you look," he said, "the economic news is troubling. But here's the thing for so many of you here in northern New Mexico and for so many Americans - this isn't really news at all. Because you've been going through hardships for a lot longer than Wall Street has."
"Here's what I also know," Obama said. "This is not a time for fear, it's not a time for panic. This is a time for resolve and it is a time for leadership."
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