McCain: 'I Know Americans Are Hurting Now'

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The financial crisis on Wall Street has made its way into the presidential campaign. Both major party nominees are taking stances on how they would manage the turmoil. On Monday, Republican presidential nominee John McCain blamed the problems on a broken regulatory system and corporate greed. He said the fundamentals of the economy are at risk.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Not surprisingly, the turmoil on Wall Street has made its way into the presidential campaign. Yesterday, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama each tried to control the day's message, and each tried to position himself as the savior of the nation's financial system. In a moment, we'll hear from NPR's Scott Horsley who's following Senator Obama. First, to NPR's David Greene who's traveling with the McCain campaign?

DAVID GREENE: Senator McCain's message yesterday seemed crystal clear when he came out with this new ad for national TV.

(Soundbite of McCain campaign ad)

Unidentified Voiceover: Our economy in crisis. Only proven reformers John McCain and Sarah Palin can fix it.

GREENE: There were ominous headlines crossing the screen about bank failures, lost jobs, and gloom across the economy. Then the candidate himself came out for a rally in Florida, and the crisis message wasn't there.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee): Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times.

GREENE: McCain's comment was picked up immediately on the news wires where stories began with McCain saying the U.S. economy's fundamentals remain strong. This has been a sensitive subject for the Arizona senator who at other times has said the economy's made great progress in the past eight years. Fair or not, his opponent Barack Obama has mocked him for suggesting the economy's doing OK at a time when Americans are struggling. And especially on a day of turmoil on Wall Street, McCain wanted to show more concern. An hour or so after leaving Jacksonville, McCain was at a town hall meeting in Orlando and no longer talking about the fundamentals of the economy being strong.

Senator MCCAIN: I know Americans are hurting now, and the fundamentals of our economy are at risk. They're at risk - the great workers, the great innovators -because of the greed of Wall Street and the greed and the abuse that's taking place which has put our very economy at risk. Our economy is at risk today. Have no doubt how serious this problem is. And we Americans will get through it, but we've got to reform.

GREENE: That reform, McCain said, includes giving Americans more access to secure mortgages. He said the housing crisis is the root cause of Wall Street's woes. But greediness on Wall Street has also been a problem, he said. And he called for tighter regulation of the financial institutions.

Senator MCCAIN: The regulatory system is broken. It was designed for the days in the stock market when they used to hold up cards, and they would yell back and forth at each other. Now the global economy is instantaneous around the world as trading goes on.

GREENE: As he's been doing everywhere, McCain took time in Orlando to praise his new running mate, Sarah Palin, who was in Colorado.

Senator MCCAIN: I've been pleased to introduce Sarah around the country and to the nation, and I want to tell you, I can hardly wait to introduce her to Washington, D.C.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee): Thank you so much. This is just spectacular. Thank you, Colorado. It is so good to be here.

GREENE: Palin was at a fairground in Golden, Colorado, speaking to hundreds of people in a dirt floor arena.

Governor PALIN: Let me tell you something that's going on today in our world, particularly here in our nation that needs some shaking up and some fixing.

GREENE: She was talking about the troubles on Wall Street, which she said could cause pain for Americans and their own pocketbooks.

Governor PALIN: This crisis is an issue of real concern, not only for those in our financial markets, but for the people across this great country. It's taking a toll on our economy, and that means people's life savings.

GREENE: Palin hammered at the day's theme. She said government reform can help stabilize Wall Street.

Governor PALIN: Guys and gals, our regulatory system is outdated, and it needs a complete overhaul.

GREENE: She said she and McCain are up to the task.

Governor PALIN: This is going to be one of the highest priorities of our administration.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

GREENE: Later today, McCain and Palin will be back together on a shared stage. They're beginning a joint campaign swing in Ohio and Michigan. David Greene, NPR News, traveling with the McCain campaign.

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