KWAME HOLMAN: At the end of a week of financial turmoil, the major presidential nominees crisscrossed the industrial Midwest, where economic hard times are nothing new.
Barack Obama began in hotly contested Ohio. In Chillicothe, he unveiled a proposal to have the government extend low-priced loans directly to small businesses in need of capital.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-Ill.): That’s what we did after 9/11. We were able to get low-cost loans out to tens of thousands of small businesses.
That’s one of the many steps we can, and should, take to help stop job losses and turn this economy around. It’s going to start with a nationwide program to provide affordable, fixed-rate loans to small businesses across the country.
KWAME HOLMAN: The tone of the presidential campaign became increasingly personal this week. Obama questioned John McCain’s temperament, calling his response to the economic crisis “erratic.”
McCain and his campaign repeatedly focused on Obama’s association with a former 1960s radical, William Ayers, with whom Obama served on a charitable foundation board. Obama long ago denounced Ayers’ actions and yesterday said he believed Ayers was rehabilitated.
Nonetheless, today the McCain campaign said it plans to air this ad.
TV COMMERCIAL NARRATOR: Blind ambition, bad judgment.
REPUBLICAN RALLY ATTENDEE: I’m mad! I’m really mad!
KWAME HOLMAN: At McCain events this week, audience members showed anger toward the Democratic nominee. Obama talked about the angry crowds in Columbus this afternoon.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I think folks are looking for something different. You know, it’s easy to rile up a crowd by stoking anger and division, but that’s not what we need right now in the United States. The times are too serious; the challenges are too great.
McCain hits back in Wisconsin
KWAME HOLMAN: McCain was in Wisconsin this morning, which was carried by Democrat John Kerry in 2004. Republican McCain is behind there according to polls, but he has spent the last two days working to change that.
McCain also had a new economic proposal: to suspend a mandate on retirees to sell stock from their retirement accounts.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): Current rules mandate that investors must begin to sell off their IRAs and 401(k)s when they reach age 70-and-a-half. To spare investors from being forced to sell their stocks at just the time when the market is hurting the most, those rules should be suspended.
KWAME HOLMAN: And McCain again took aim at the cost of Obama's various economic proposals.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Barack Obama will increase government spending by over $860 billion. That's on top of the trillions in debt that we've already burdened our children and grandchildren will -- with.
He claimed in our debate that somehow he'll still end up with a cut in spending. Only Barack Obama could sell an $860 billion federal spending increase as a net reduction in federal spending.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, vice presidential nominee Joe Biden remained in the swing state of Missouri for a second day and sounded a familiar theme of the Obama campaign.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-Del.): You can't change the lives of the middle class when there're no difference -- none -- between what you would do and what George Bush has been doing.
It's just not going to happen. It literally -- it's not a political stunt. It's a fact. You can't change it.
And so, folks, to paraphrase a good friend of mine and a new senator from my home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a guy named Bob Casey -- a great guy, by the way -- Bob Casey said you can't call yourself a maverick when all you've been is a sidekick.
Folks, that's why I would respectfully suggest you're seeing John McCain's campaign become so erratic, relying on political stunts instead of offering sound solutions.
KWAME HOLMAN: For McCain running mate Sarah Palin, it was a day of fundraising in Ohio and Pennsylvania, with time made to cut the ribbon at a community facility in Cleveland.
The McCain campaign says the Alaska governor stands by her actions involving Palin's former brother-in-law, an Alaska state trooper. A bipartisan legislative panel investigated whether Palin took improper actions aimed at getting the trooper fired.