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Market Meltdown, Tone on Campaign Trail Top the Week’s News

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and National Review Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru discuss the presidential candidates' plans for the troubled economy and how voters are reacting as Election Day draws ever closer.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Ponnuru, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru. David Brooks is off tonight.

    Mark, is it correct to say, continue to say that this political campaign now for president of the United States is about the economy and the financial crisis, period?

    MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist: It is, Jim. It's of transcendent importance. And it's not simply an issue that engages people; it's an issue that touches people and touches their lives.

    And for that reason, it is central. It will be with us. It's not going to go away.

    And I'd just toss in one little quirk that would make it different this time, and that is, it's been 26 years since we've had really bad economic times in this country.

    We had a couple of downspins in '91 and then after 2001, but we've had essentially 26 years of low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates. And people have come to take those as a matter of course, as a norm.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Stocks are always going to go up, wages…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Stocks are going to go up.

    RAMESH PONNURU, National Review senior editor: Housing prices.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Houses are going to appreciate. And now, I mean, now this has hit. And it's hit even harder. And there's a sense of who is responsible for this.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And I was going to ask you, Ramesh, what's your analysis of why it has, of course, helped Barack Obama so much and not — and hurt John McCain so badly?

  • RAMESH PONNURU:

    Well, I think two reasons. One is that there's sort of a vicious circle that McCain's campaign is in. Because he's behind, he always has to make bold moves to try to shake the campaign up.

    But we're in a crisis where people are wanting calm and steady leadership. So every time he takes a bold move, he begins to look a little bit more erratic, a little bit riskier.

    Sen. Obama, on the other hand, can be calm, cool, and collected because he's in the lead. You know, he's got a lead to sit on so he can project that sense of leadership.

    And, secondly, I think that McCain genuinely has added a certain amount of erraticness in his own performance, you know, coming up with a new plan on one day, and then the next day you're attacking, you know, Obama over totally non-economic topics.

    There's been a bit of a bouncing-around quality to the McCain campaign.

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