WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama on Sunday tentatively supported the $700 billion plan to bail out the U.S. financial system.
“This is something that all of us will swallow hard and go forward with,” McCain said on ABC’s “This Week.” “The option of doing nothing is simply not an acceptable option.”
“My inclination is to support it,” said Obama, his Democratic rival in the November 4 U.S. presidential election.
“While I look forward to reviewing the language of the legislation, it appears that the tentative deal embraces these principles” the Illinois senator said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” referring to requirements he said needed to be in the package.
Congressional negotiators announced early on Sunday they had reached tentative agreement on a compromise deal that altered key parts of a Wall Street bailout program initially proposed by the Bush administration.
Both candidates refused to be pinned down on the economic plan during their first presidential debate on Friday. By Sunday, with a tentative deal in place, each gave general support with comments that the taxpayers had to be protected.
Later at a rally in Detroit, Obama called the bailout an “outrage.” “But we have no choice,” he said in prepared remarks. “We must act now. Because now that we’re in this situation, your jobs, your life savings and the stability of our entire economy are at risk.”
Supporters tried to play up their candidate’s roles.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told “Fox News Sunday” said Arizona Sen. McCain played a “decisive” role in getting balky House Republicans to focus on negotiating a compromise. McCain cut his campaign short last week to return to Washington to deal with the crisis at a White House meeting.
But Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts told the same program it was Obama who took the lead at that meeting while McCain remained silent.
McCain resumed his campaign the next day so that he could attend the debate in Mississippi. Early same-night snap polls generally showed Obama winning the first of three encounters between the two nominees.
McCain tried to paint Obama as naive and too inexperienced to be president, a tactic Obama shrugged off as a “debating trick.”
McCain has been criticized as condescending toward Obama and for refusing to look at his Democratic opponent during the debate. McCain called the criticism “foolishness.”
“I’ve been in many, many debates,” he said. “And a lot of the times I don’t look at my opponents because I‘m focusing on the people and the American people that I‘m talking to. That’s what the debate’s all about.”
The two debate again on October 7. Before that, the two vice presidential nominees -- Republican Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware -- will face off next Thursday.
That debate is expected to attract a large television audience. Palin has excited the conservative base of the Republican Party and her newness on the national scene has raised public interest in the person who would be next in line for the presidency.
Plus, both candidates have misspoken or given less-than-elegant answers to questions, raising the possibility of a misstep that could alter the campaign.
McCain shrugged off criticism of Palin, especially that she is too inexperienced in foreign affairs.
“I‘m so excited about the reaction that Sarah Palin has gotten across this country, huge turnouts, enthusiasm, excitement,” he said. “She knows how to communicate directly with people. They respond in a way that I’ve -- that I’ve seldom seen.”
Obama ducked questions about whether he thought Palin was qualified to be president.
“I think it’s important for the American people to make a judgment based on what they hear from Sarah Palin herself,” he said. “I think that I‘m more concerned about the fact that she doesn’t seem to have any differences with President Bush and would continue the same policies.”
Writing by David Wiessler; Editing by Doina Chiacu