JIM LEHRER: And now, the presidential campaign, as the candidates go back on the road. NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.
KWAME HOLMAN: At a rally in Tampa, Fla., this morning, Democrat Joe Biden claimed his side was 3-for-3 after the second McCain-Obama debate and his debate last week with Sarah Palin.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-Del.): I realize I’m slightly prejudiced about our ticket, but if this was a best-of-five series, it’d be over. It’d be done.
KWAME HOLMAN: Biden also charged that the McCain campaign was trying to scare voters with its attacks on Barack Obama.
SEN. JOE BIDEN: The one they have chosen is to appeal to fear with a veiled question, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” Ladies and gentlemen, to have a vice presidential candidate raise the most outrageous inferences, the ones that John McCain’s campaign is condoning, is simply wrong.
McCain, Palin criticize Obama
KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin campaigned together at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Palin went first and criticized Obama's debate performance.
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-Alaska): So last night, Sen. McCain talked about real and pragmatic solutions. Barack Obama talked about why he'd rather run against George Bush. And that strategy is starting to wear pretty darn thin.
John McCain didn't just come out of nowhere. The American people know John McCain. They know that he's the maverick. And that's what our opponents are afraid of most.
KWAME HOLMAN: McCain followed and questioned whether Obama could be trusted to follow through on his proposals.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): So who is the real Sen. Obama? Is he the candidate who promises to cut middle-class taxes or the politician who voted to raise middle-class taxes?
Is he the candidate who talks about regulation or the politician who took money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and turned a blind eye as they ran our economy into the ditch?
Sparring over a mortgage plan
KWAME HOLMAN: McCain also talked up his proposal, unveiled last night, to have the U.S. Treasury purchase mortgages homeowners are struggling to pay.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: The dream of owning a home should not be crushed under the weight of a bad mortgage. This moment -- this moment requires the government act. And as president, I intend to act quickly and decisively.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today, a McCain adviser said the program might cost $300 billion, which could come out of the $700 billion made available in the recent financial rescue package or from Federal Housing Administration funds.
The Obama campaign responded to McCain's plan this afternoon. In a statement, economic policy director Jason Furman said, "John McCain's plan to overpay for bad mortgages by handing taxpayer dollars over to big financial institutions is erratic policy-making at its worst, and it's not the change we need to strengthen our economy, create new jobs, and keep Americans in their homes."
Obama calls for 'better days'
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, Obama himself campaigned in Indianapolis, Ind., a state no Democratic presidential candidate has carried since 1964, but one that's in play this year. He sought to reassure Americans shaken by the recent tumult in the economy.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-Ill.): I'm here today to tell you that there are better days ahead. I know these times are tough and I know that many of you are anxious about the future, but this isn't the time for fear or for panic. This is time for resolve and steady leadership.
I know -- I know that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis, because that's who we are. This is the United States of America.
KWAME HOLMAN: The candidates have more battleground states lined up tomorrow: Obama in Ohio; Biden in Missouri; McCain and Palin together in Wisconsin.