DENVER - Frustrated Republicans voiced concern yesterday with their own presidential candidate, John McCain, as he sought one more comeback in a career full of them. He warned that the middle class would "get put through the wringer" if Barack Obama wins the White House.
Obama, ahead in the polls, took a day off from campaigning to visit his critically ill grandmother in Hawaii. But two Republicans popped up to darken McCain's day.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, speaking to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, said the race would have been different in his state, which has 21 electoral votes, if McCain had chosen him as running mate instead of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"I think we'd be foolish not to admit it publicly," he said, although he added that in selecting Palin, McCain had made a bold choice.
Ridge later released a written statement saying that his remarks had been taken out of context and that he had often praised Palin. At the same time, he added that the race in Florida would have been different if that state's governor had been placed on the ticket, or in Minnesota similarly. Florida has 27 electoral votes and Minnesota 10. Alaska has three.
Another Republican, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, said in an interview: "I would have done things differently the last few weeks."
Noting that Obama has outspent the Republican on television advertising in the state, Ryan added: "I think McCain's economic and health-care plans should have been more vigorously defended, and unfortunately Obama has been able to incorrectly define McCain's plans and ideas."
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin both voted for Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 race, but McCain has campaigned energetically in hopes of placing them in his column this fall. Recent polls show him trailing in both, as he is in surveys nationally and in some polls in traditionally Republican states such as Virginia, Florida and Colorado.
With 11 days remaining before Election Day, Republican aides yesterday described an endgame strategy that relies on television advertising and personal campaigning to raise doubts about Obama's tax proposals on one hand and his readiness to handle a crisis on the other.
A new television commercial, unveiled during the day, cites Democratic running mate Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s prediction that "it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama. . . . We're going to have an international crisis."
But, the announcer says, "it doesn't have to happen. Vote McCain."
McCain, 72, has long sought to make an issue of his 47-year-old rival's thinner foreign-policy resume, but the economic crisis has overshadowed all other issues in the last month.
McCain assailed his rival's economic proposals as he campaigned in three Colorado communities during the day.
"He believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs," McCain said in Denver. "Sen. Obama may say he's trying to soak the rich . . . but it's the middle class who are going to get put through the wringer, because a lot of his promised tax increase misses the target."