WARREN, Mich. John McCain promised auto workers at General Motors to help make the company's long-range electric car a success as he outlined ways to help a state and industry hit hard by the economy.
Trailing Democrat Barack Obama in polling on economic issues, the likely Republican presidential nominee sought to bolster his economic appeal to voters by speaking to auto workers who've seen fellow workers lose jobs and homes in Michigan. Earlier this week, GM announced $15 billion in cuts, borrowing, and asset sales as it tries to weather a huge dropoff in sales of trucks and large cars on top of more long-term costs.
At the General Motors Corp. Design Center here, GM CEO Rick Wagoner and other company officials told McCain about their plan to build a long-range electric car called the Volt. Then the Arizona senator held a town hall event with workers at the site.
Pointing to a sign for the Volt, which is expected to hit the market in 2010, McCain said: "I will do everything in my power that this new experiment, this breakthrough... has every chance of success and that we will make sure that American citizens understand what's happening here."
McCain has proposed giving a $5,000 tax credit for those who buy a no-emissions car.
"We all know in this room a job is more than a job," McCain said.
Most questions from the crowd centered on economic issues like the effect environmental laws could have on the U.S. auto industry, health care, and free trade.
McCain also pushed a plan for the government to help homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments to get a new, fixed-rate mortgage.
"There's thousands and thousands and thousands of citizens in this state who can't afford the payments to stay in their homes," he said.
"We've got to hit bottom someplace and then it's going to start up again," he said, but until that happens, the government should work to keep people in their homes by giving them access to fixed-rate lending.
While McCain trails Obama on economic issues; Obama trails McCain in polls on foreign affairs issues. Each candidate is trying to shore up their credentials in those perceived weaknesses: McCain by hammering domestic economic plans, and Obama with a trip to the Middle East and Europe.
One woman questioned McCain pointedly on Iraq and how he would approach Iran.
"We lost Vietnam. You said you knew how to win wars. ... I don't know if winning wars is necessarily something that a president wants to do or should do," the woman said.
McCain said the United States needed to keep a steady, firm hand in dealings with both Iraq and Iran.
"I believe that we can modify Iranian behavior. We need to exhaust every possible option before we can ever consider a military option. Americans have made great sacrifices and it has grieved us all," he said. "If we failed, if we were defeated we would face much greater sacrifice of American blood and treasure."
Later, the former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war added: "I hate war. No one hates war more than the veteran."