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Before vote, McCain stresses 'suspension'

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
BEXLEY, Ohio - After "suspending" his campaign to return to Washington last week and help negotiate Congress's Wall Street bailout, McCain was back on the campaign trail today at a rally with his running mate where he criticized his opponent for not responding to the financial crisis in a similar fashion.

"I went to Washington last week to make sure that the taxpayers of Ohio and across this great country were not left footing the bill for mistakes made in Wall Street and evil and greed in Washington," McCain said.

Despite numerous earlier claims that this crisis was not a situation to be politicized, McCain then added, "it's a matter of record Senator Obama took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced. At first, at first he didn't want to get involved. And then he was "monitoring the situation." That's not leadership, that's watching from the sidelines."

McCain's remarks came hours before the bailout legislation failed on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Although McCain said last week - and repeated today - that it wasn't his style to "simply phone it in," he spent roughly five hours on Capitol Hill last Thursday (including a meeting with Obama at the White House), and less than two hours there on Friday before traveling to the debate. He then spent most of the day on Saturday making phone calls from his campaign headquarters in Virginia, a few miles away from the Hill.

One of McCain's closest advisors excused his candidate's absence from the Capitol on Saturday by telling reporters that McCain could "effectively do what he needs to do by phone."

Obama also visited his Senate office on Thursday but left town on Friday morning.

While accusing Obama today of not fighting hard enough for hardworking Americans, McCain put most of the blame for the current crisis on Washington insiders, a label he eschewed today despite boasting a resume that includes over 25 years of service in Washington.

"Times are tough for America," McCain said. "Times are tough for working families. Times are tough. They're paying the penalty for the greed and excess in Washington and the old boy network, a thing I have never been part of."

In reference to the debate, McCain said that Obama wasn't telling the American people the "truth" about a vote in the Senate that includes the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and a tax increase for Americans making $42,000 a year.

"He said at the time that this vote for higher taxes on the middle class was quote 'getting our nation's priorities back on track,'" McCain said today of Obama's budget vote. "Then something happened, amazing. On Friday night, he looked the American people in the eye and said it never happened.
 
In response, Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor issued this statement: "Senator McCain's angry diatribe today won't make up for his erratic response to the greatest financial crisis of our time. John McCain knows that the budget he's talking about didn't end up raising taxes on a single American, and the lie he told the American people today is all the more outrageous a day after he admitted that his health care plan will increase taxes on some families. When Senator Obama is President, no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase, and 95 percent of all workers and their families will get a tax cut."