"I will protect your savings and retirement accounts and get this stock market rising again," said McCain, after huddling with economic advisers and pledging a break with Bush administration policies.
Aides said that McCain's call for cuts in the capital gains tax and tax breaks for seniors who invest would help the market rebound, a nod to the top issue on voters' minds little more than a week out from Election Day.
"A stronger economy with greater investor confidence would help turn the stock market around," said Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman. "That would help drive up stock prices and the market recover."
In his closing argument of the marathon election, McCain tread a thin line between bashing Democratic rivaland making clear that he would steer a different course than the current GOP administration.
"We both disagree with President Bush on economic policies," McCain said. "My approach is to get spending under control. The difference between us is he thinks taxes have been too low, and I think that spending has been too high."
His most dramatic claim was a pledge to turn around a plunging stock market. Most of the progress he promised would come from the economic stimulus sparked by big tax cuts he's pushing, McCain said.
"I will create millions of jobs through tax cuts that spur economic growth," McCain said. The capital gains tax cut he's proposing would encourage investors, Bounds said.
Before he spoke, McCain met with economic advisers including former rival Mitt Romney and former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp. The event was designed to focus his message on the economic meltdown that has dominated the campaign and left him on the defensive. The downturn has helped boost Obama to a lead in the polls, both nationally and in key battleground states like Ohio.
"The difference between myself and Sen. Obama is my plan will create jobs, it's a difference of millions of jobs in America," McCain said. "My approach will lead to rising stock market prices, a stabilized housing market, economic growth and millions of new jobs."
Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton responded, "A day after John McCain said that he agreed with George Bush's economic philosophy, he continued to parrot the same failed policies that give billions to billionaires and big corporations while providing no relief at all to more than 100 million middle-class Americans."
McCain's meeting with economic advisers came as polls show him trailing Obama, with most Americans deeply worried about the direction of the economy. For weeks McCain has been seeking to distance himself from Bush and his economic policies and he made that break complete in the nation's industrial heartland. Obama has tried equally hard to tie McCain to Bush, repeatedly citing McCain's 90 percent support for Bush in Senate votes.
At a rally in Dayton, McCain continued to criticize Obama.
"That's what change means for the Obama administration, it means taking your money and giving it to someone else," said McCain. He ridiculed Obama's argument that his tax plan was based on fairness.
"There's nothing fair about driving our economy into the ground and we all suffer when that happens," said McCain. "We'll cut business taxes to help American jobs and keep American business in America."
McCain opposed another economic stimulus package and said he would instead seek to bring spending under control. He made clear the advisers he met with would be part of his administration and it would steer a far different course than Bush.
McCain described an economic stimulus plan under discussion in Congress as "another $300 billion spending spree they are calling a stimulus plan."
"I would rather give the great American middle class additional tax cuts and let you keep the money and invest it in your future," said McCain.
McCain repeated his proposals to cut taxes for those who hold stocks for at least a year, and end requirements that force people to take money out of retirement accounts during the market's downturn.
He also said he would toughen rules governing the financial markets.
"I will demand complete transparency into the accounts and activities at all banks and insurance companies so they cannot take on the kind of risk that brought down the financial system," said McCain. "We will have strict rules of conduct on Wall Street and if they are broken, executives will be severely punished."
While he voted for a $700 billion rescue package for the financial sector, McCain said "the government will get out of the banking business fast" if he's elected.