OBAMA SEIZES OPPORTUNITY, HAMMERS MCCAIN ON ECONOMY…. If Democrats were waiting for a significant shift in the campaign’s direction, the crisis on Wall Street seems to have provided one. Barack Obama not only took John McCain to task on the economy today in a major speech in Colorado, he spoke with the kind of intensity that’s been largely missing since the end of the Democratic convention.

“Make no mistake: my opponent is running for four more years of policies that will throw the economy further out of balance,” Obama said, taking on McCain’s bankrupt ideology. “His outrage at Wall Street would be more convincing if he wasn’t offering them more tax cuts. His call for fiscal responsibility would be believable if he wasn’t for more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and more of a trillion dollar war in Iraq paid for with deficit spending and borrowing from foreign creditors like China. His newfound support for regulation bears no resemblance to his scornful attitude towards oversight and enforcement.

“John McCain cannot be trusted to reestablish proper oversight of our financial markets for one simple reason: he has shown time and again that he does not believe in it,” he added.

Obama also went after McCain’s call for a commission: “Just today, Senator McCain offered up the oldest Washington stunt in the book – you pass the buck to a commission to study the problem. But here’s the thing — this isn’t 9/11. We know how we got into this mess. What we need now is leadership that gets us out. I’ll provide it, John McCain won’t, and that’s the choice for the American people in this election.”

Perhaps most importantly, Obama contrasted his specific record with McCain’s: “In February of 2006, I introduced legislation to stop mortgage transactions that promoted fraud, risk or abuse. A year later, before the crisis hit, I warned Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke about the risks of mounting foreclosures and urged them to bring together all the stakeholders to find solutions to the subprime mortgage meltdown. Senator McCain did nothing. Last September, I stood up at NASDAQ and said it’s time to realize that we are in this together — that there is no dividing line between Wall Street and Main Street — and warned of a growing loss of trust in our capital markets. Months later, Senator McCain told a newspaper that he’d love to give them a solution to the mortgage crisis, ‘but’ — he said — ‘I don’t know one.’ […]

“This March, in the wake of the Bear Stearns bailout, I called for a new, 21st century regulatory framework to restore accountability, transparency, and trust in our financial markets. Just a few weeks earlier, Senator McCain made it clear where he stands: ‘I’m always for less regulation,’ he said, and referred to himself as ‘fundamentally a deregulator.’ This is what happens when you confuse the free market with a free license to let special interests take whatever they can get, however they can get it.”

Obama has generally held modest leads over McCain on who voters trust more on the economy, but those leads have become much smaller in recent weeks. If Obama’s speech and message get any attention at all, I suspect the lead will grow considerably.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.