WESTMINSTER, Colorado (AFP) — Democrat Barack Obama appealed for calm on reeling global markets Monday, confident that Congress would eventually relent on a bailout package dramatically thrown out by the House of Representatives.
"I'm confident that we're going to get there but it's going to be a little rocky," the Illinois senator said after dissident Republicans and Democrats joined forces in the House to reject the 700-billion-dollar rescue package.
"It's important for the markets to stay calm because things are never smooth in Congress and to understand that it will get done," Obama said.
Shares on Wall Street tumbled by nearly 700 points as the bill appeared headed to defeat, recovered, and then tumbled again. Steep declines played out on other markets.
As high drama played out in Washington, Obama and his Republican rival John McCain warred over their economic credos out on the campaign trail. McCain said the November 4 election was a choice between "country first or Obama first."
"A vote for Barack Obama will guarantee higher taxes, fewer jobs and an even bigger federal government. These policies will deepen our recession," he said in Ohio alongside his under-fire running mate, Sarah Palin.
There was no immediate comment from McCain himself to the bill's defeat, after the Republican last week dramatically "suspended" his campaign and headed back to Washington to take a hands-on role in the debate.
The Republican's top economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin blamed Obama for a lack of leadership, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for giving "a strongly worded partisan speech" just prior to the vote that "poisoned the outcome."
"Barack Obama failed to lead, phoned it in, attacked John McCain, and refused to even say if he supported the final bill," Holtz-Eakin said in a statement.
"This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country," he said.
For the White House hopefuls, the financial crisis represents a real-time test of political leadership -- and Obama appears to be winning so far.
New polls Monday took account of McCain's campaign suspension, which Democrats said never actually happened, and the first presidential debate Friday in Mississippi.
Gallup's latest tracking poll had Obama on 50 percent to 42 for McCain. Rasmussen also had Obama on 50 percent, but McCain doing better on 45.
While the Republican attacked Obama for taking a hands-off role in the financial crisis, pollsters said voters appeared to believe the Democrat was adopting a more level-headed response than McCain.
Releasing its own new poll Monday, the Los Angeles Times said "Obama has made strides in convincing Americans that he can handle the toughest challenges facing the country, including the financial meltdown and international crises."
Overall, Obama led McCain by 49 to 44 percent in the LA Times poll, which said also that 46 percent of debate-watchers believed the Democrat was more "presidential," compared with 33 percent for the Republican.
Obama meanwhile flagged up a New York Times story from Sunday that McCain, a veteran of late-night sessions in Nevada casinos, had extensive links to corporate lobbyists pressing for gambling deregulation.
"He likes to roll those dice. And that's ok. I enjoy a little friendly game of poker myself," the Democrat said.
"But one thing I know is this -- we can't afford to gamble on four more years of the same disastrous economic policies we've had for the last eight."
The Democratic Party was airing a new video highlighting the Times article, targeting conservative and religious websites whose evangelical readers decry gambling as a social ill.
"It is time we had some adult supervision. That's why I'm running for president," Obama said.
McCain, however, accused his opponent of "watching from the sidelines" as Wall Street went into meltdown.
"And watching from the sidelines is exactly what got us into this mess. It was the lack of accountability and oversight that put your tax dollars on the line," he said.
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