As fears of a recession mounted and stock prices fell, the economy turned into the hot topic on the campaign trail.
Democrats used the opportunity to criticize President Bush, but candidates from both parties took the market meltdown as an opportunity to call attention to their economic plans and credentials.
At a campaign stop in Greenville, S.C., Illinois Sen. Barack Obama talked about waking up to bad news from Wall Street. Obama said he hoped the interest rate cut announced by the Federal Reserve would help restore confidence, but he also blamed Washington for the market tumble and other economic problems.
"What started as a crisis in the housing market has now spilled over into the rest of the economy. Banks are facing a credit crunch, leaving businesses with less money to invest and more Americans unable to get loans. For years, we were warned this might happen. But Washington did what Washington increasingly does: It looked the other way," he said.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton repeated a suggestion from the latest Democratic debate in South Carolina that showcased her inside knowledge of how the White House works.
"I think it's imperative that the following step be taken: The president should have already and should do so very quickly, convene the President's Working Group on Financial Markets. That's something that he can ask the Secretary of the Treasury to do," she said.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning, John Edwards went so far as to use the "r" word.
"The truth is that our country is no longer on the brink of a recession. We're in one. It looks like it could be a serious one. The tragedy of all this is that this could have been largely avoided," Edwards said.
The economy has already become the No. 1 issue on the campaign trial, edging aside the Iraq war and terrorism — even for Republican candidates. It's a more complicated issue for them, since they are the incumbent party and are traditionally seen by voters as weaker on this issue than Democrats.
During the Michigan primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said that only he, a former businessman, could fix the mess. He released anew ad on Tuesday, in which he said,"Today our economy is slowing. Many feel anxious about the future. I know how America works because I spent my life in the real economy. I ran a business, turned around the Olympics and led a state. My plan will make our economy strong. We need to invest in people and business with tax cuts."
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has been emphasizing his fiscal stewardship of New York City, as he campaigns across Florida. In an interview with NPR, he said that he agreed with President Bush's short-term economic stimulus plans, but said he would also focus on long-term strategies.
"I would emphasize some of the long-term, permanent changes because I believe that affects investment. I believe it affects who puts more money in the U.S., as opposed to putting money somewhere else," he said.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, who, like every other campaign, has a stimulus package of his own, told a mostly military audience in Florida that the economy is in tough shape.
"I believe that we have to do a lot of things. We have to cut spending. We have to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25. We need to make these tax cuts permanent," McCain said.
None of the candidates want to be seen as indifferent to the economic plight of those people affected by the market plunge or the mortgage crisis, but from the campaign trail, none of them can do much about it.