In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.
Golden, Colo. — John McCain and Barack Obama traded increasingly barbed insults along with prescriptions for the ailing economy Tuesday as financial fears shoved aside lipstick on pigs and every other political issue in a blink with just weeks left in the long presidential campaign.
An ad by Democrat Obama sneered: "How can John McCain fix our economy if he doesn't understand it's broken?"
Getting even more personal, Republican McCain retorted: "Sen. Obama saw an economic crisis, and he's found a political opportunity. My friends, this is not a time for political opportunism; this is a time for leadership."
McCain commented as he and running mate Sarah Palin addressed a rally late Tuesday in Vienna, Ohio.
The verbal dueling showed the importance both candidates put on the issue of the economy as the continuing financial meltdown on Wall Street has driven all other issues out of the news.
Both campaigns now believe the candidate who manages to wrest control of the issue and gain voters' confidence could well be the next president.
Earlier in the day, McCain called for a crisis commission, while Obama laughed that off as "the oldest Washington stunt in the book."
"This isn't 9/11," Obama told a noisy crowd of more than 2,000 at the Colorado School of Mines, dismissing the idea of a need for study. "We know how we got into this mess. What we need now is leadership that gets us out. I'll provide it. John McCain won't."
McCain, campaigning in Florida, promised reforms, too, to expose and end the "reckless conduct, corruption and unbridled greed" that he said had caused the financial crisis on Wall Street."
The bewildering turmoil has shaken Americans' confidence, erased hundreds of billions of paper wealth for U.S. stockholders and led McCain and Obama to forsake other controversies and scramble back to the economy as the primary concern of voters.
The presidential campaign had taken an odd turn to side issues - Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" and moose-hunting, Obama's crack about lipstick on a pig - after McCain's surprise pick of Alaska Gov. Palin as his running mate. There was a fascination with huge crowds attracted by Palin. But the collapse and merger of some of Wall Street's legendary companies forced a return to reality seven weeks before the election.
What do the voters think?
McCain and Obama now are trusted equally on the economy, with 34 percent of voters naming each as the candidate who would do a better job dealing with what is easily the country's top worry, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll conducted last week. Previously, Obama had had a solid advantage on the issue.
McCain declared Monday that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Then, after Obama accused him of being out of touch, he conceded the country was in an economic crisis but still said the fundamental strength of the American worker remained strong.