You Liar! McCain Raises Stakes; Glory Days? Bruce Springsteen Plays a Set in Support of Democrat Candidate Barack Obama in Michegan. Right, Actor Jon Voight Addresses Republican Supporters at a Rally in Carson, California Making No Bones : Barack Obama with a Customer at the 12 Bones Smokehouse in North Carolina While, Right, Rival John McCain Campaigns with Wife Cindy in New Mexico. There Is a Televised Election Debate Tonight

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Byline: JACK LEFLEY, PAUL THOMPSON

REPUBLICAN presidential candidate John McCain has branded his Democrat rival Barack Obama a liar.

Mr McCain unleashed a series of attacks on his opponent in the run-up to tonight's second televised presidential debate.

It comes after his running mate Alaska governor Sarah Palin ratcheted up the campaign's hostile tone by accusing Mr Obama of "palling around with terrorists". And it signals a fightback by the Republican team which has seen Mr McCain narrow Mr Obama's lead, according to a new poll.

The Republican running mates were responding to Mr Obama's attempts to resurrect Mr McCain's links to a financial scandal two decades ago.

In an angry speech in New Mexico, Mr McCain blamed his rival for Congress's failure on a first vote to pass the $700 billion financial bail-out for the US financial system, sidestepping the fact that fellow Republicans were primarily responsible for rejecting the measure.

Mr Obama has said Mr McCain's Republican philosophy and his support for the Bush administration's handling of market regulation were behind the huge economic turmoil that threatens to cripple the US and world economies.

However, Mr McCain said: "I guess he believes if a lie is big enough and repeated often enough it will be believed. But the truth is I was the one who called at the time for tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that could have helped prevent this crisis from happening in the first place." He also suggested Mr Obama is a mysterious figure who cannot be trusted.

"Who is the real Barack Obama?" Mr McCain said to a cheering crowd.

"Ask such questions and all you get in response is another barrage of angry insults." Mrs Palin has expanded her attacks on Mr Obama's character to include his relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, despite Mr McCain signalling earlier that he did not want Mr Obama's firebrand former pastor to be a part of his campaign. …