TOPICS > Politics

Candidates Spar on Economy in Wake of VP Debate

October 3, 2008 at 6:30 PM EDT
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Amid more gloomy economic data, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama offered their takes on job losses and the financial crisis, one day after Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden sparred over foreign policy and the economy in their one and only debate. Judy Woodruff recaps the latest on the race.

JIM LEHRER: Next tonight, the presidential campaign, where it’s back to the top of the ticket after last night’s vice presidential debate. Judy Woodruff reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Barack Obama and John McCain resumed their places at the center of the presidential campaign today, hours after their running mates met for their first and only debate in St. Louis.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-Ill.): I was so proud of Joe.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Obama was in Abington, Pa., this morning, near Philadelphia, where he sought to tie today’s bad unemployment numbers to McCain and Sarah Palin, who last night said that taxes killed jobs.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I wonder if she turned on the news this morning, because it was just reported that America has experienced its ninth straight month of job loss, nine straight months.

Just since January, we’ve lost more than 750,000 jobs across America, 7,000 in Pennsylvania alone.

This is the economy that John McCain said just two weeks ago was fundamentally strong. This is the economy that my opponent said made great progress under the policies of George W. Bush. And those are the economic policies that he proposes to continue another four years.

So, when Sen. McCain and his running mate talk about job-killing, that’s something they know a thing or two about, because the policies they’ve supported and are supporting are killing jobs in America every single day.

And, Abington, I am here to tell you that we can’t afford four more years of this. Enough is enough.

Addressing the jobs report

JUDY WOODRUFF: McCain, meanwhile, campaigned in Colorado, one of a shrinking number of battleground states, given the news yesterday that the McCain campaign was pulling most of its resources out of Michigan. He, too, addressed the unemployment news at a town hall in Pueblo.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): And one of the ways that we're going to get our economy going -- because it's all about jobs, our economic future -- it's all about jobs. There was a jobs report that came out today that's terrible news for America.

I have to give you straight talk, my friends. I can't give you rosy scenarios. We're in a tough fight to get our economy back.

But I can also tell you that energy, it will be a creator of millions of jobs here in Colorado and around America.

And we have to stop. And we have to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. We're sending $700 billion of your money overseas to countries that don't like us very much, and some of that money ends up in hands of terrorist organizations.

We will eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, and one of them is -- and one of those solutions is, my friend, is clean-coal technology. Coal is going to be a primary means of eliminating our dependence.

We are sitting on the world's largest reserves of coal. Clean-coal technology can be done. We have to invest in it.

Here in Colorado, some 80 percent of your energy is generated by coal. There's nine coal mines in the state of Colorado. There are nine coal mines here, and it provides jobs, and we can develop the clean-coal technology.

Linking McCain and President Bush

JUDY WOODRUFF: Also like Obama, McCain talked up the debate performance of his running mate.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: How about Sarah Palin last night, huh? How about her, huh? How about the job she did, huh?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Biden and Palin were meeting for the first time when they stepped on stage last night.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-Alaska): Nice to meet you.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-Del.): It's a pleasure.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: Hey, can I call you Joe?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Palin relied on a casual, even folksy approach for much of the face-off, as evidenced by this comment during one of Biden's repeated attempts to link McCain to President Bush.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: Say it ain't so, Joe. There you go again, pointing backwards again, though. You prefaced your whole comment with "the Bush administration." Now, doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Biden didn't relent, though, even as Palin kept trying to distance McCain from President Bush and the Republican Party.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: People aren't looking for more of the same. They are looking for change. And John McCain has been the consummate maverick in the Senate over all these years.

He's taken shots left and right from the other party and from within his own party, because he's had to take on his own party when the time was right, when he recognized it was time to put partisanship aside and just do what was right for the American people.

SEN. JOE BIDEN: Can I respond to that? Look, the maverick -- let's talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He's been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives.

He voted four out of five times for George Bush's budget, which put us a half-a-trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he's got there.

He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against -- he voted against including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate. He's not been a maverick when it comes to education.

He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college. He's not been a maverick on the war. He's not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table.

Relating to average Americans

JUDY WOODRUFF: Moderator Gwen Ifill also asked each candidate for their Achilles' heel, a question Palin deflected. She chose instead to talk about the reasons she believed McCain selected her to be his running mate.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: It was my connection to the heartland of America, being a mom, being one who is very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college. How are we going to pay those tuition bills?

About times in Todd and our marriage in our past, where we didn't have health insurance, and we know what other Americans are going through, as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out, how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care? We've been there, also, so that connection was important.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Biden followed, relating the experience of losing his first wife and daughter in a car accident that also injured their two sons to the difficulties many people face in their own lives.

SEN. JOE BIDEN: Look, I understand what it's like to be a single parent. When my wife and daughter died and my two sons were gravely injured, I understand what it's like as a parent to wonder what it's like if your kid's going to make it.

The notion that somehow, because I'm a man, I don't know what it's like to raise two kids alone, I don't know what it's like to have a child you're not sure is going to -- is going to make it, I understand.

I understand, as well as, with all due respect, the governor or anybody else, what it's like for those people sitting around that kitchen table. And guess what? They're looking for help. They're looking for help. They're not looking for more of the same.

Stretching the truth

JUDY WOODRUFF: The debate was also marked by times when both candidates stretched the truth. Palin on taxes.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: And Barack Obama even supported increasing taxes as late as last year for those families making only $42,000 a year. That's a lot of middle-income, average American families to increase taxes on them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, the basis for Palin's statement was a nonbinding budget resolution that did not represent a vote to raise taxes. For his part, Biden criticized McCain for opposing a nuclear arms treaty.

SEN. JOE BIDEN: Number two, with regard to arms control and weapons, nuclear weapons require a nuclear arms control regime. John McCain voted against a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that every Republican has supported.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In truth, President Clinton never sent the test ban treaty to Congress for formal ratification because of overwhelming Republican opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Obama and McCain will meet for their second debate next Tuesday at Belmont University in Nashville.