By Ellen Wulfhorst
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Democrats Hillary Clinton andBarack Obama slammed potential White House opponent John McCainon the economy on Tuesday, accusing the Republican of favouringthe wealthy and turning his back on struggling workers andmiddle-class families.
The Democratic presidential contenders, campaigning inPennsylvania ahead of their April 22 showdown, took a breakfrom attacking each other to portray the Arizona senator asuncertain and untested on economic issues.
In separate appearances but similar language, they saidMcCain would take his economic cues from President George W.Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"John McCain admits he doesn't understand the economy --and unfortunately he's proving it in this campaign," Clintontold the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO union group.
"After seven disastrous years of George Bush and DickCheney, the stakes in this election couldn't be higher and theneed to change course couldn't be more urgent. But John McCainis only offering more of the same," the New York senator said.
Obama, an Illinois senator, said all McCain offers "is fourmore years of the same George W. Bush policies that have gottenus into this pickle."
He noted McCain's support for extending Bush's tax cuts,which Obama said would help the wealthy, and his support fortrade agreements that Obama said do not protect U.S. workers.
"His response to the housing crisis amounts to little morethan standing on the sidelines and watching millions ofAmericans lose their homes," Obama said in Wilkes-Barre.
The winner of the Democratic nominating battle betweenClinton and Obama will face McCain in November's election, andin recent days both candidates have toned down their attacks oneach other to focus more directly on McCain.
They have both criticized the former Navy fighter pilot andprisoner of war in Vietnam for saying he does not know as muchabout the economy as national security and military issues.
McCain, who is on a week-long tour highlighting hismilitary service and life story, visited his former high schooloutside Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
He said he will soon offer a plan with specifics on helpfor homeowners who are having trouble paying their mortgagebills due to adjustable-rate loans.
'CHANGE THE FOCUS'
"Senator Clinton's attacks on John McCain are a desperateattempt to change the focus away from the divisive battlewithin the Democratic Party," said Republican NationalCommittee spokesman Alex Conant, who challenged her to explainhow she will pay for her new spending proposals.
Clinton proposed a plan on Tuesday to create 3 million newjobs through increased investments over 10 years in the U.S.infrastructure, and proposed a $10 billion (5 billion pounds)emergency repair fund for critical repairs to bridges andhighways.
Clinton and Obama both were in Pennsylvania on Tuesdayahead of their next showdown in three weeks.
Some Democrats are concerned the prolonged campaign willhurt the eventual winner in the match-up with McCain. Clinton,who trails Obama in pledged delegates won in state-by-statecontests, has rejected calls to step aside.
Neither candidate is likely to have the 2,024 delegatesneeded to win the nomination after the contests end in earlyJune, leaving the decision up to nearly 800 superdelegates --elected officials and party insiders who are free to back anycandidate.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said thecampaign should continue through the end of voting, andrepeated her view that superdelegates should not be perceivedto overturn the will of the voters.
"I think the election has to run its course," Pelosi saidon ABC's "Good Morning America."
"I do think that it is important for us to get behind onecandidate a long time before we go to the Democratic NationalConvention if we hope to win in November," she said.
Obama also played down worries the long campaign would hurtthe eventual Democratic nominee.
"I think this contest has been good for the DemocraticParty. We've brought in all kinds of new people into theprocess. And I think that bodes well for November," he said onNBC's "Today" show.
(Additional reporting by David Morgan, Caren Bohan andSteve Holland, writing by John Whitesides; editing by DavidWiessler)
(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visitReuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online athttp:blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)