From CBS News' John Bentley:
(NEW YORK) – After a week where John McCain's economic initiatives had to compete with his co-chair's assertion that American's economic problems were all in their head, Phil Gramm stepped down today from his formal role in McCain's campaign. "It is clear to me that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Sen. McCain on important economic issues facing the country,' Gramm said today in an e-mailed statement. "That kind of distraction hurts not only Sen. McCain's ability to present concrete programs to deal with the country's problems, it hurts the country. To end this distraction and get on with the real debate, I hereby step down as co-chair of the McCain campaign and join the growing number of rank-and-file McCain supporters."
Last week, Gramm told the Washington Times that "we have sort of become a nation of whiners." "You've heard of mental depression," he added. "This is a mental recession."
McCain immediately repudiated Gramm, saying he strongly disagreed with his statements. "Phil Gramm does not speak for me," he said.
Barack Obama's campaign took the opportunity to blast McCain's economic programs. "The question for John McCain isn't whether Phil Gramm will continue as chairman of his campaign, but whether he will continue to keep the economic plan that Gramm authored and that represents a continuation of the polices that have failed American families for the last eight years," said Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan.
It is unclear if Gramm will be sent to Belarus, where McCain threatened to dispatch him last week after he made the initial comments.