Obama in Florida: No bailouts for bad decisions

MIAMI — After one of Wall Street's worst weeks ever, Barack Obama addressed the country's economic crisis Friday, calling on President Bush and Congress to work quickly to stabilize the ailing financial markets.

Speaking before a rally at the University of Miami's BankUnited Center, Obama said he was less interested in scoring political points than in making sure there are financial instruments in place to shore up the economy in the short and long term.

''Do what's required to make sure the economy is running and ordinary people are able to go about what they do every day,'' Obama said, but he later added, "We don't want bailouts of people who made bad decisions.''

Obama's visit Friday is pivotal to swaying public opinion just as the first absentee ballots are mailed. He brings his campaign and its hope-and-change theme to Florida, one of the states hit hardest hit by the economic crisis.

At best, he is tied -- but gaining ground -- in Florida polls with Republican John McCain. A national Gallup Poll, showing Thursday that Obama has opened up a four-percentage-point lead nationwide, suggests that his stock with voters is improving as the stock market tanks.

''The days are ticking down, and I believe this campaign visit is very, very important,'' said Terrie Brady, president of the teachers union in Jacksonville. "If he stays on message, it will be a home run. Like Bill Clinton said, 'It's the economy, stupid.' ''

His statement came shortly after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson outlined a multi-faceted effort to confront crisis, announcing a bailout that could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars to buy up bad mortgages and other debt that has rocked Wall Street.

"This needs to be big enough to make a real difference and get to the heart of the problem, Paulson told reporters as the administration asked Congress to give it sweeping powers.

He gave few details but said he would work through the weekend with leaders of Congress from both parties to flesh out the program, the biggest proposed government intervention in financial markets since the Great Depression.

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