(Des Moines, IA) Two Republican presidential rivals are picking at their competing tax cut plans, underscoring the tightening of the race in advance of the opening campaign contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

During an appearance in New Hampshire, Arizona Senator John McCain said Texas Governor George W. Bush’s tax plan gives too much to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans — and would burn up the entire federal budget surplus.

McCain would use 70 percent of the excess federal tax money to fix the Social Security and Medicare system.

During an interview with Radio Iowa, Bush said his tax plan seeks to return money to Americans, rather than keeping it in Washington to be spent.

McCain “called my tax plan excessive,” Bush said. “I think it’s just right.”

Bush said there is a “tax gap” between McCain and himself, and Bush highlighted some components of his tax plan.

“It’s a plan that cuts the rates for everybody,” Bush said. “If you’re a family of four that’s making $50,000 in the state of Iowa, you get a 50 percent tax cut. If you’re a single mom, with two children who’s on the edge of poverty, a person making $22,000 a year, you get 100 percent tax cut.”

When asked about McCain’s potential challenge in Iowa, Bush dismissed McCain as any sort of competition in the Hawkeye state.

“I can’t imagine the people of Iowa are very thrilled (to be) voting for somebody who hasn’t even come to their state,” Bush said. This is a man who said I’m not competing in Iowa. I think my competition isn’t Senator McCain, it’s the other candidates who are campaigning hard in Iowa.”

McCain decided to forego campaigning in Iowa, but appeared at a debate in Des Moines in December and will participate in the Republican candidates debate here on January 15.

Bush campaigned in Davenport, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids Tuesday.