RICHMOND, Virginia (AFP) — Democrat Barack Obama Wednesday swatted away White House rival John McCain's new attacks on his national security spurs and tax policy, dismissing his Republican foe as "out of ideas."
But 13 days before the election, McCain warned the Illinois Senator Obama not to take victory for granted, despite his mammoth financial advantage and opinion polls giving him a widening lead.
"Whoever is the next president is going to have to deal with a whole host of challenges internationally, and that a period of transition in a new administration is always one in which we have to be vigilant," Obama said here.
The Democratic nominee gathered a phalanx of top national security advisors to discuss emerging global threats, in a pre-planned meeting, a day after McCain suggested he was not fit to face a breaking foreign policy crisis.
Republicans had also seized on comments by Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden this week that America's enemies would seek to test Obama at an early stage if he is elected on November 4.
But Obama said that the biggest test for the new president would come in fixing the legacy of the Bush administration abroad.
"We have to be careful, we have to be mindful that as we pass the baton in this democracy, that others don't take advantage of it," Obama said.
"That is true whether it's myself or Senator McCain and it has been throughout our history."
Biden said in a fundraiser in Seattle this week that the world would quickly throw up a test for Obama, much as president John F. Kennedy was tested by the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
"Mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy," Biden said.
"The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America.
"We're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
Republicans tried to portray the comments as a sign that Biden, an old foreign policy hand, did not have confidence in Obama's leadership skills.
The next president "won't have time to get used to the office," McCain said at a rally on Tuesday.
"I sat in the cockpit on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise off of Cuba. I had a target," McCain said, referring to the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis.
"I know how close we came to a nuclear war and I will not be a president that needs to be tested. I have been tested. Senator Obama has not."
McCain on Wednesday sought to portray Obama as taking the electorate for granted, given a slew of favorable polls and the massive 150 million dollar warchest he amassed in September.
"My opponent's looking pretty confident these days," McCain told a rally in Goffstown, New Hampshire, the state which revived his moribund presidential campaign earlier this year.
"He'll be addressing the nation soon. He's got another one of those big-stadium spectacles in the works, acting like the election is over."
Obama has however repeatedly been telling his massive crowds that despite the favorable win, they can afford to take nothing for granted.
"Remember New Hampshire," he says, referring to Hillary Clinton's shock comeback triumph in January's primary vote after his own opening win in the Iowa caucuses.
McCain also renewed his claim that Obama would introduce across-the-board "socialist" tax increases which he said would choke economic growth but the Democrat maintained most Americans would actually get a tax cut.
"It's not a very plausible argument that he's making right now. And I think it's an indication that they have run out of ideas," said Obama.
"They have been trying to throw whatever they can up against the wall to see what sticks and this is their latest version."
The rivals traded their latest shots after a new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found the Democrat had a solid 10 point 52 point to 42 point lead. A Fox News survey put Obama up nine points 49 points to 40 nationwide.
McCain's running mate Sarah Palin meanwhile courted more controversy, after the Politico newspaper and website reported that Republicans spent 150,000 dollars to outfit her for the campaign trail.
The McCain-Palin campaign rejected the report as a distraction from the top issues in the election, but the episode appeared to undercut Palin's claim to represent hard pressed working class Americans.
"With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses," said spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.
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