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John McCain's comment on a 'strong' economy sets up the day's debate

September 15, 2008 | 10:55 am

With tremors continuing to shake Wall Street, John McCain began his campaign day standing by his guns, saying this to a crowd in Jacksonville, Fla.: "Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong."

From a purely political standpoint, the week could not have started any better for Democratic strategists.

To be sure, McCain -- in his very next sentence in Jacksonville -- added that he recognized that "these are very, very difficult" times.

And at a second Florida event, in Orlando, he tweaked his comments, saying his confidence in the economy's "fundamentals" referred to the productivity, innovation and skills of the American worker. He also said, "The top of our economy is broken" -- something he promised to fix.

But McCain's initial reprise of a line he uttered earlier this summer (see below) obviously gave Democrats a chance to focus the presidential campaign away from the low-bore squabbles of last week (lipstick on pigs, anyone?) and back onto what they see as a stark divide between the two presidential candidates.

Barack Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, wasted no time seeking to do that. Campaigning in crucial Michigan, he told his audience: "I could walk from here to Lansing and I wouldn't run into a single person who thought the economy was doing well. Unless I ran into John McCain."

That's not quite what McCain has been saying, of course, but his reiteration of his "fundamentals" line gave Democrats an opening they are going to try to drive a tank through.

-- Don Frederick

[Update: Obama just took his expected whack at McCain during a rally in Grand Junction, Colo. Rhetorically, he asked his audience why "today, of all days" McCain would make his comment about the economy's fundamentals. "Sen. McCain, what economy are you talking about?" he said.]

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