In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.
Abington, Pa. Democrat Barack Obama used word of the nation's worst monthly job loss in over five years Friday to argue the policies of his Republican opponents "are killing jobs in America every single day." Republican John McCain retorted that Obama's tax and spending plans won't solve the problem.
The government reported employers cut 159,000 jobs last month, the ninth straight month of job losses. The crowd gathered to hear Obama at a Pennsylvania high school football field booed when he told them the numbers and again when he told them McCain recently said the economy is fundamentally strong and has made great progress under President Bush.
The Illinois senator encouraged voters to change the Republican leadership in the White House that he said hasn't worked. He disputed McCain running mate Sarah Palin's claim in a debate Thursday night that his own spending plan would be a job killer.
"When Senator McCain and his running mate talk about job killing, that's something they know a thing or two about," Obama said. "Because the policies they've supported and are supporting are killing jobs in America every single day."
Hours later at a town hall meeting in Pueblo, Colo., McCain himself said Obama's plans would hurt the economy.
"He wants higher taxes, more government, higher spending, and frankly that record is not something which has been good for America and we won't let it happen," McCain said. The McCain campaign launched a new national TV ad Friday repeating his criticisms of Obama's tax plans.
Obama is proposing tax increases only for those earning more than $250,000 but would cut taxes for those making less - details that McCain and Palin don't mention.
Their dispute came as Congress approved a $700 billion measure to bail out the financial industry. Both campaigns said their candidates called lawmakers on behalf of the bill. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus credited Obama with changing their minds, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Reps. Elijah Cummings and Donna Edwards, both Maryland Democrats.
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said, "He's made a number of calls today. We are not releasing specifics at this time." But Republican Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina, who switched her vote to favor the measure, said she hadn't heard from McCain. "They told me he was going to call me. He didn't," she said.
Speaking to reporters upon landing in Flagstaff, Ariz., McCain took credit for helping push the bailout through Congress. Last week he briefly rearranged his campaign schedule to go to Washington as lawmakers began considering the package. He left to debate Obama but returned last weekend before the first House vote.
"I'm glad I suspended my campaign and went back to Washington to bring - to help bring - House Republicans to the table," McCain said.
Despite Congress' passage of the bailout, there was no indication the Wall Street crisis would give way to other campaign issues and more economic woes could be ahead.
With that grim economic backdrop, Obama is seeking to solidify his lead in national and battleground polls, while McCain looks for a game-changing development to close a gap that grew in part because McCain struggled to respond to the financial crisis and because economic woes tend to push voters toward Democratic candidates.
Polls show Obama has made progress in persuading voters that he's ready to be president and that McCain would continue Bush's economic policies. But the Illinois senator still has work to do to lock down his lead in case outside events or campaign blunders change the campaign conversation.