KWAME HOLMAN: With several Pennsylvania polls showing Barack Obama may be chipping away at her once-sizeable lead, Hillary Clinton today moved to shore up support in the Keystone State.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter joined Clinton at the city’s west side YMCA, where the candidate unveiled a $4-billion-a-year plan to fight crime.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: We’ll start by setting a bold goal. As president, I intend to focus on cities with high homicide rates, and we will cut those rates in half. And we’re going to look at all the causes as to why there are homicides. Some cities have more of one than the other. We know, where gangs are rampant, so are homicides. In some cities, more than half of all murders involve gangs. We know without a doubt drugs play a major role, as well, creating violence and disorder and leading to murders.
There’s also a direct correlation between the illegal gun sales and homicides. Roughly 80 percent of criminals caught with guns are not the purchasers of record.
KWAME HOLMAN: To help achieve that goal, Clinton said she would beef up the presence of police in urban areas.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Too many police departments are dangerously underfunded right now. That means slower response times. It puts our families at risk, less backup, which puts our officers at risk, less capacity for officers to form relationships in the communities they patrol.
Controlling corporate salaries
KWAME HOLMAN: Barack Obama, meanwhile, campaigned in Indiana, which holds its primary on May 6th.
At a rally in Columbus, Obama promised to make corporations more accountable to their employees who often bear the brunt of bad business practices.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: But I've been reading lately that the top 50 CEOs in this country made an average $15.7 million a year, even though some of their companies were losing money. They weren't doing a good job.
The head of Countrywide Financial, which is a mortgage lending company that was pushing all these subprime loans that has gotten us into such hot water, two of their executives walked away with $20 million bonuses, even though they had helped to bring about what is, in all likelihood, a recession.
Now, when you've got CEOs making more in a day than ordinary workers are making in an entire year, and the CEOs are the ones getting the tax breaks under George Bush's plans, and workers are getting nothing, and if the company goes belly-up, the CEO walks away with multimillion-dollar bonuses, and the workers are losing their pensions, then something's wrong.
And we need to change it. We need to do something about it. That's not the America we believe in.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, stopped briefly in Lubbock, Texas, late today, where he challenged Obama on limiting executive salaries.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: No, I don't think the government should cap pay. I think stockholders and shareholders should be much more active, and I think CEOs and chairmen should be separate. I don't think they should have the same job.
And I think that stockholders should have a much greater say. But I think it's, in all due respect, if the government starts deciding what salaries of businessmen and women are, I think that's something that certainly flies in the face with my philosophy about the role of government in America.
McCain outlines housing plan
KWAME HOLMAN: The senator delivered a major policy address yesterday, outlining a plan to deal with the expanding housing crisis. McCain's two Democratic rivals had criticized him earlier for not supplying more details on how to help struggling homeowners.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: It offers every deserving American family or homeowner the opportunity to trade a burdensome mortgage for a manageable loan that reflects the market value of their home.
This plan is focused on people. People decide if they need help. People decide. They apply for assistance. And, if approved, the government, under the home program, supports them in getting a new mortgage that they can afford.
There will be qualifications which require the home to be a primary residence and the borrower able to afford a new mortgage. We'll combine the power of government and the private sector to find immediate solutions for deserving American homeowners.
My plan follows the sound economic principle that, when markets decline dramatically, debts must be restructured. It's built on the reality that homeowners should have an equity (inaudible) and equity capital stake in their own home.
Homeowners would end up with a 30-year mortgage and an equity stake in their home. The new lender would receive a federal guarantee of the mortgage. And the taxpayer gets a benefit if the sale value ever recovers.
The result is a restructured financial arrangement for the homeowner. Over the long term, financial institutions must follow suit, writing off losses, restructuring their balance sheets, and raising more capital.
New ads tout personal experience
KWAME HOLMAN: The candidates also have stepped up their television campaigns, each producing several new ads recently. McCain is airing one that touts his military experience.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong. Do not yield. Stand up. We're Americans, and we'll never surrender!
AD NARRATOR: What must a president believe about us, about America, that she is worth protecting, that liberty is priceless, our people honorable, our future prosperous, remarkable and free? And what must we believe about that president? What does he think? Where has he been? Has he walked the walk?
REPORTER: What is your rank?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Lieutenant commander in the Navy.
REPORTER: And your official number?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: 624787.
AD NARRATOR: John McCain. The American president Americans have been waiting for.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.
KWAME HOLMAN: Barack Obama now has seven ads being broadcast throughout Pennsylvania, addressing issues from energy to health care. In the Philadelphia market, he's also airing a more personal ad that includes testimonials from his half-sister, grandmother and wife.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message.
MAYA SOETORO-NG, Sister of Barack Obama: People recognize themselves in Barack and they feel understood by him. In part, that's because he listens so well.
MADELYN DUNHAM, Mother of Barack Obama: Well, I think it's given him a lot of depth and a broadness of view.
MICHELLE OBAMA, Wife of Barack Obama: Barack and I talk all the time about making sure that our girls can imagine any kind of world for themselves with no barriers.
MAYA SOETORO-NG: He wants to make sure that everybody's children have the opportunities that his daughters have.
KWAME HOLMAN: Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has five ads airing in Pennsylvania, including two in Philadelphia that include endorsements from Mayor Nutter and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, describing Clinton as a fighter who gets the job done.
But as Pittsburgh, Erie and Harrisburg, Clinton's ads target those areas' economic worries.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: The Bush economy is like a trapped door. Too many families are one pink slip, one missed mortgage payment, one medical diagnosis away from falling through and losing everything.
The oil companies, predatory student loan companies, the insurance companies, and the drug companies have had seven years of a president who stands up for them. I intend to be a president who stands up for all of you.
I'm Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.
KWAME HOLMAN: As of Sunday, Obama had spent more than $3.5 million on ads in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton less than half of that.