ORMOND BEACH, Fla. | Sen. John McCain on Thursday continued to distance himself from President Bush and even tried to turn the tables on his Democratic rival, arguing that Sen. Barack Obama will provide the sequel to the Bush administration's reckless, runaway spending.
In an election Mr. Obama has made a referendum on the Republican president, Mr. McCain took three separate swipes at the Bush administration, at one point pounding the podium to emphasize his criticism, and comparing Mr. Bush's grasp of international affairs to Mr. Obama's.
"Are you ready to trust America's national security to an untested leader in these times of war? Two wars we're in," Mr. McCain said at a lumber yard in Ormond Beach. "You know, we can't spend the next four years, as we have spent much of the last eight, hoping for our luck to change at home and abroad."
He leveled the criticisms a day after blaming Mr. Bush, in an interview with The Washington Times, for letting "things get completely out of hand" in spending and the direction of government.
Mr. Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, mocked Mr. McCain's effort.
"If it walks like a duck, if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it's a duck," Mr. Biden said in Charlotte, N.C. "John McCain and Sarah Palin are quacking like George Bush."
Mr. Biden said he and Mr. Obama were not running against Mr. Bush. "We are running against the very economic policies John McCain is promising to continue to push forward," he said.
On the stump, Mr. Obama ridiculed his rival for feigning differences with Mr. Bush as the Democrat pounded economic issues that helped firm his lead.
"You see, Senator McCain thinks the economic policies of George W. Bush are just right for America," Mr. Obama said in Indianapolis. "And while Senator McCain says now that he's different from President Bush, you sure couldn't tell by the policies he's proposing."
Mr. McCain spent the day driving the Interstate 4 corridor across central Florida on a "Joe the Plumber tour," stopping at small businesses along the way to talk with owners who said Mr. Obama's plan to raise taxes on those making $250,000 or more would force them to lay off workers.
After news that jobless claims neared a seven-year high, Mr. McCain said Mr. Obama would only make the situation worse.
"Barack Obama's only answer is to double-down on the Bush administration's legacy of out-of-control spending, raise taxes on small businesses, impose mandates on employers and raise trade barriers - a time-proven recipe for turning tough economic times into terrible economic circumstances," Mr. McCain said.
At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said Mr. Bush doesn't take the criticism personally.
"I'm not going to comment on the words that our candidate chooses to use. All I'll say is that the president stands by his policies. He also stands by John McCain," she said.
Liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change said Mr. McCain's effort to distance himself from Mr. Bush was "nothing short of a miracle."
Mr. Obama is running an ad showing Mr. McCain acknowledging during the Republican primaries that he has voted with Mr. Bush more than 90 percent of the time, and on Thursday his campaign put out a fact sheet detailing Mr. McCain's own words of support.
But polling suggests Mr. McCain is making headway in convincing voters he would go a different direction than Mr. Bush.
— S.A. Miller reported from Washington.
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