McCain camp claims credit over bailout changes
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CHICAGO (AFP) - John McCain's presidential campaign claimed credit as Congress readied Monday to vote on an emergency economic package, but Democrats said the Republican's last-ditch intervention had been no help.
Mitt Romney, McCain's erstwhile rival for the Republican nomination, said the deal on a Wall Street bailout worth up to 700 billion dollars would never have happened without the Arizona senator.
Speaking on NBC television, the former Massachusetts governor said "this bill would not have been agreed to had it not been for John McCain."
"That doesn't mean that he's the only guy doing that. And there many people ... who have been critical to it," Romney said.
"But, you know, this is a bipartisan accomplishment, a bipartisan success. And if people want to get something done in Washington, they just watch John McCain," he said.
"He's been the guy whose name is at the top of major pieces of legislation for a long time."
Both McCain and his Democratic rival in the November 4 election, Barack Obama, said they would reluctantly sign up to a drastically reworked deal permitting the Treasury to buy up sour mortgage-backed assets.
A vote in the House of Representatives, where Republican opposition to the bailout has been strongest, was due Monday. The Senate, where both McCain and Obama sit, was not expected to take up the measure until Wednesday.
One of the architects of the bill struck after a weekend breakthrough among legislators, Senate banking committee chairman Christopher Dodd, said he had been in regular contact with his Democratic colleague Obama.
"With all fairness, I called him up a lot of times, but to suggest presidential politics was a help here is a bit of an exaggeration, to put it mildly," Dodd said on NBC.
Democrats accused McCain of sabotaging a deal last week through political grandstanding after the Republican, in a high-stakes gamble, said he was suspending his campaign and rushing back to Washington.
Obama on Sunday said McCain's response to the Wall Street crisis had been "Katrina-like," evoking the US government's bungled handling of the hurricane that drowned New Orleans in 2005.
Gallup's tracking poll Sunday, which took into account McCain's dramatic gambit and voters' initial reactions to Friday's first presidential debate, had Obama ahead of McCain by a yawning 50 percent to 42.
The next debate comes Thursday in a hotly anticipated clash between the White House running mates, Democrat Joseph Biden and Republican Sarah Palin, whose meandering performance in a CBS interview last week was widely mocked.
The expectations game was in full swing as Romney said Alaska Governor Palin would be going up against a "veritable wall of words" in Biden, the veteran chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee.
"But I think if you looked at her debate performance as the governor of Alaska, you're going to see a person who can hold her own," he said.
"She's a very confident, well-spoken, thoughtful individual, and I think she's going to do real well. But you know, there's nothing like being able to create low expectations, and that's certainly being done for her."
Dodd said his Senate colleague Biden would handle the debate "very, very well."
"But people need to think beyond the debate. Who do you want sitting next to the president when you're dealing with these major issues?" he said.
"Joe Biden has been the chairman of the foreign relations committee for years, knows these issues thoroughly. And to have a (person a) heartbeat away from the presidency is a critical question."
Obama was heading West Monday with his latest campaign rally in the battleground state of Colorado. McCain and Palin were appearing together in Ohio.