McCain, Obama clash over causes, cures of crisis

The economy was at the forefront as voters questioned the candidates in a town hall format.

Tuesday night's presidential debate capped another tumultuous day on Wall Street.

The debate was held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

There was a lot of talk before the debate about all of the negative attacks that McCain, who is slipping in the polls, might launch against Obama in an attempt to close the gap. Possible attacks included Obama's shady former associates from Chicago, Tony Rezko and Jeremiah Wright. But that never happened.

It was on bread-and-butter issues like the deteriorating economy, with McCain coming up with a surprise proposal - a $300 billion plan to buy back bad mortgages.

The finger pointing began right off the bat as McCain blamed the crisis on Obama's supporters at the quasi-governmental lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"Senator Obama was the second highest recipient of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac money in history. Fannie and Freddie were the catalysts that started this forest fire. There were some of us that stood up against it. There were others who took a hike," McCain said.

"The biggest problem in this whole process was the deregulation of the financial system. A year ago, I went to Wall Street and said, 'We've got to reregulate.' And nothing happened. And Senator McCain, during that period, said that we should keep on deregulating because that's how the free enterprise system works. I never promoted Fannie Mae," Obama said.

Regardless of who's to blame, the people wanted to know how the next president's going to deal with the problem.

" I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes, at the diminished value of those homes and let people make those payments and stay in their homes," McCain said.

And both were promising to help people keep their homes and create jobs, but once again they battled over taxes.

"Senator McCain is proposing tax cuts that would give the average fortune 500 CEO an additional $700,000 in tax cuts," Obama said.

"Nailing down Senator Obama's various tax proposals is like nailing Jell-o to the wall. There's been five or six of them and if you wait long enough, there will probably be another one, but he wants to raise taxes," McCain said.

"Senator McCain, I think the straight talk express lost the wheel on that one. I want to provide a tax cut for 95 percent of Americans," Obama said.

On the issue of health care, McCain who favors tax credits over government mandates, says Obama's plan for universal health care is big brother at its worst.

"If you're a small business person and you don't insure your employees, Senator Obama will fine you. That's remarkable. If you're a parent and you're struggling to get health insurance for your children, Senator Obama will fine you," McCain said.

"If you've got health care plan that you like, you can keep it. All I'm going to do is help to you lower the premiums on it. You'll still have choice of doctor. There's no mandate involved," Obama said.

McCain is still claiming to have more experience and superior judgment on issues of war and peace. But Obama's calling him out for joking about some life and death issues.

"This is a guy who sang, 'Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. Who called for the annihilation of North Korea?" Obama said.

"I was joking with an old veteran friend who joked with me about Iran. Senator Obama would have brought our troops home in defeat. I'll bring them home with victory and with honor, and that is a fundamental difference," McCain said.

There was no mention of Rezko or Wright and no gaffs by either candidate.

They were asked who they'd like to see as treasury secretary. McCain said maybe Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay. Obama went with Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor.

Local reaction

One room in Chicago was packed with volunteers for other campaigns, including Senator Dick Durbin and congressional hopeful Dan Seals. But they dropped everything to watch the man who will be atop the Democratic ticket next month. Thanks to recent polls, Obama supporters believe they have momentum on their side. And they believe their man kept it going with his debate performance, especially with the issue on everyone's minds right now - the economy.

"I'm getting more comfortable with how Obama would handle it. McCain, you know, certainly he understands the Senate and he understands the Congress but, you know, I'm just concerned that he's been part of the deciders who have brought us to where we are right now," said Jack Strom, Obama supporter.

In River North, Republicans say they believe McCain carried the night. They say they realize the McCain campaign has conceded the state of Illinois to native son Obama. But a strong showing at the top of the ticket is still important to other Republicans in the state. And they believe his plan for the economy helped that cause.

"John McCain and Sarah Palin are helping some of our state reps and state senators who two months ago were probably going to be run over by the Obama tsunami. It's not going to happen right now," said Jim Durkin, chair of McCain's Illinois campaign.

"And he will get the right people in place to work with him, to solve this problem and it's not going to be overnight. And we all have to appreciate it's not going to be overnight. But I believe that he will be the one in that unfortunately I just don't believe that John McCain, first of all, gets it," said Carmen Corbett, Obama supporter.

Both candidates have gotten more personal in recent days. And while the debate was relatively tame, supporters on both sides say they hope the Obama and McCain stick to the issues.

"I appreciated tonight how it's not being personal in the sense other than records. I think it's very important to discuss the records because Obama in particular, he's my senator but I really feel like he hasn't actually represented us very well," said Corine Williams, McCain supporter.

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