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McCain Says He Can Tackle The Economy

SCOTT HORSLEY: And I'm Scott Horsley with the McCain campaign. At a rally outside Cleveland yesterday, John McCain was met with a variety of political signs. One said "McCain Equals Hero," another "Vote Pro-life." And then there was a sign that Debbie Hollick(ph) was holding. It said "Democrat for McCain."

Ms. DEBBIE HOLLICK: Obama has absolutely no experience. He is an empty suit. And I don't want him as my president. No way.

HORSLEY: And that is exactly the argument McCain was making at campaign rallies in Ohio and Pennsylvania, that Obama isn't ready for the responsibilities of the Oval Office.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): We've all heard what he's said. But it's less clear what he has done or what he will do.

HORSLEY: McCain told supporters he has the experience, not only to serve as commander in chief, but also to tackle the economy. Mindful that pocketbook issues are now uppermost in voter's minds, McCain repeated the proposal he floated in Tuesday night's debate, having the government come directly to the aid of people whose homes have lost value and who cannot meet their monthly payments.

Senator MCCAIN: The United States government will purchase mortgages directly from homeowners and mortgage services, and replace them with manageable mortgages. The dream of owning a home should not be crushed under the weight of a bad mortgage.

HORSLEY: The Treasury secretary already has the authority to buy mortgages as part of the financial rescue plan approved last week. But here, as in other parts of the rescue plan, a key question is how much the government would pay. Critics say if the government pays full price for the mortgages, as McCain's top economic adviser suggests, it would be rewarding lenders who made bad loans while sticking taxpayers with the bill.

(Soundbite of song "Danger Zone")

Mr. KENNY LOGGINS: (Singing) Highway to the danger zone.

HORSLEY: McCain's rallies have all the excitement of a campaign's final weeks with Hollywood music and big, boisterous crowds. But the GOP nominee is treading on dangerous ground. Trailing in national polls and in key battlegrounds, McCain is fighting to hold states that George Bush won easily four and eight years ago, states where Obama is now tied or ahead. Now that President Bush is no longer popular, McCain must count on running mate Sarah Palin to help him rally the disenchanted GOP base. The two campaigned together yesterday, and Palin argued that voters face a stark choice in November.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska; Republican Vice Presidential Candidate): The choice is between a politician who puts his faith in government and a leader who puts his faith in you.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

HORSLEY: Palin also looked past President Bush to invoke a less tarnished Republican icon, Ronald Reagan.

Governor PALIN: And we believe that with the right kind of leadership, we can once again be that shining city on a hill. And Ronald Reagan spoke of that so many years ago. One man has the wisdom and the experience to get us there. That man is John McCain.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

HORSLEY: McCain was introduced at the Ohio rally by Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn. The former Notre Dame star noted that his father, like McCain, is a veteran of the Vietnam War.

Mr. BRADY QUINN (Quarterback, Cleveland Browns): You know, too oftentimes we label people heroes and get caught up in the moment. But tonight we have a real hero amongst us.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

HORSLEY: Today, the McCain-Palin team moves on to other Great Lakes states. They need to win to counter Obama's inroads in what had been Bush country. The first stop is Wisconsin where Bush fell short twice and where Republicans need a turnaround and a takeaway win in November. Scott Horsley, NPR News, with the McCain campaign in Milwaukee.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: We are less than a month now from Election Day. Some places are voting already. And if you're confused about the voting day rules and restrictions in your area, we'd like to know. And in fact, we'd like to help. Send us your questions by going to npr.org. You can click on "Contact Us" and be sure to write "voting questions," the words "voting questions," in the subject line. We're going to try to get you some answers tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.