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One Republican official managed to defend Mr. McCain and Mr. Cox.

“It shows McCain is not afraid to take on fellow Republicans at any time,” said Shawn Steel, a Republican National Committee member and former California Republican Party chairman. “On the other hand, I don’t see how Chris Cox is responsible.”

Democrats and some Republican critics have said that the roiled financial markets this week have shaken public confidence and upset the surge that the McCain-Sarah Palin ticket was enjoying.

No question, the financial mess played into the Obama/Democratic Party line that a McCain presidency would mean a continuation of what Democrats and Mr. McCain have called the failed Bush policies at home and abroad.

Mr. McCain is counterattacking by blaming the SEC as one of the government’s best-known regulators that was blind to a financial “crisis” that saw Lehman Brothers file for bankruptcy, Bank of America swallow up Merrill Lynch and the federal government in effect nationalize the American International Group Inc. (AIG) insurance corporation, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two quasi-governmental mortgage giants.

A past proponent of deregulation, Mr. McCain on Thursday did not utter Mr. Cox’s name but said the SEC has “kept in place trading rules that let speculators and hedge funds turn our markets into a casino.”

“We cannot wait any longer for more failures in our financial system,” Mr. McCain added.

He said he wants to see a new regulatory “mortgage and financial institutions trust” created for the sake of investor confidence.

He also took a whack at his opponent, saying, “Senator Obama has never made the kind tough reform we need today.”

While in charge of the SEC, Mr. Cox watched the federal government choreograph the sell-off of famous Wall Street firms Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns in order to prevent their collapse. Lehman Brothers, meanwhile, filed for what is believed to be the biggest bankruptcy ever.

Mr. Cox, who some Republicans said was on the shortlist to be Mr. McCain’s running mate, was an attorney in the Reagan White House’s Office of Legal Counsel and used to fighting off attacks, including those identified as friendly fire.

“While I have great respect for Senator McCain, we have sometimes disagreed, and this is one such occasion,” he said in a statement Thursday. “History will judge the quality of our response to this economic crisis, but now is not the time for those of us in the trenches to be distracted by the ebb and flow of the current election campaign.”