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Reporting from the Campaign Trail; Appearances by Candidates

Aired September 7, 2008 - 16:00   ET


MARY SNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CNN's "Ballot Bowl." I'm Mary Snow coming to you live from beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is your chance to hear directly from the candidates. Sometimes live, sometimes on tape, always unfiltered. Joining us today will be our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. He's been canvassing the country on the CNN Election Express. He is in Wisconsin today. And of course, my co-anchor, Suzanne Malveaux who is in Chicago.
First, we're going to go to the news of the day. The headlines - the government bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and Suzanne, this is certainly big talk, a big topic that is on the campaign trail.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Mary, this is a huge story. Everybody is watching this. And certainly voters are, as well. It really gives us all of us a chance to take a look at these two candidates and ask ourselves, what is the economic philosophy behind their policies here? What is the role of the government? How much intervention is too much or too little? And so we are listening very carefully to see what the candidates say about this huge bailout.

Obviously going to make a big difference. The taxpayers are wondering what is it going to cost them? How is it going to affect them personally? So both Barack Obama and John McCain coming out this weekend essentially addressing this issue. Not in great detail, but offering at least some initial response. Let's take a listen.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to protect taxpayers, not bailout the share holders and management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is a challenging situation that's been festering for a long time. There are some community and regional banks with potential exposure, including those serving long-term communities. We're going to have to carefully address those situations.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: i think that we've got to keep people in their homes. There's got to be restructuring. There's got to be reorganization and there's got to be some confidence that we stop this downward spiral. It's hard. It's tough, but it's also a classic example of why we need change in Washington. It's an example of cronyism, special interests, lobbyists, a quasi- governmental organization where the executives are making $100 million plus a year while things are going downhill, going to hell in a hand basket. This is the kind of cronyism, corruption that has made people so justifiably angered.


MALVEAUX: One other thing that both of the candidates emphasized, they don't want to reward bad behavior to investors or speculators. I want to bring in our own Bill Schneider. He is with the CNN Election Express out of Wisconsin. And Bill, both of these candidates are really trying to set themselves up here for the voters as the one that's most responsive to the everyday economic needs. We heard Barack Obama talking about the need for a second economic stimulus package. That this is something that the taxpayers, homeowners should come first. We hear McCain saying we really got to get tough on some of these speculators and people who have been irresponsible. Which one is coming out on top? What are you hearing?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there's a lot of concern about this because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own half the home mortgage value in the entire country. So they cannot be allowed to fail. It would be a total collapse really of the whole housing sector, which is one of the crucial sectors of the American economy. So something clearly has to be done. The taxpayers are assuming this risk and the chance, of course, that they are taking is that in the end housing values are going to have to go up. The mortgage market is going to have to recover so that the taxpayers aren't left holding what could be a very, very expensive bill here.

I think everybody understands the magnitude of this problem. The seriousness of it, and they understand that the people in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have got to change because they behaved very irresponsibly. And in effect left the taxpayers holding the bill. So it's a very big risk but the taxpayers have to bear it for the sake of the American economy.

MALVEAUX: Bill, I know this is really just developing and it really hasn't given either candidate a lot of time to respond, but is there either one that seems to be at least talking more directly to the voters about how this is going to personally impact them? I mean, we hear a lot about you know all of this on a macroscale, a big scale. But people are wondering what is this going to cost me? Does this mean I'm going be able to afford my home? Does it mean I'm going to be able to borrow money more easily? Are either one of these candidates coming out in front and actually trying to explain this in a really simple, down to earth way?

SCHNEIDER: I haven't heard what the candidates are saying today about it. They have to be very cautious what they say. Because in the end, you know, what they have to do is reassure the voters that the housing market is going to be propped up really by the taxpayers. That this is going to help stabilize this situation and that the alternative of allowing these two gigantic institutions to collapse would be unthinkable because the whole housing market in the country would collapse. I think the idea and both candidates are likely to reflect this, the idea is that this is absolutely necessary to sustain the housing market in this country and to rebuild confidence in that market. And of course, all of them, everyone is hoping that in the end, housing prices will go back up and people will recover the value of their homes. That, of course, is not under the control of any candidate or of the taxpayers.

MALVEAUX: Coming after these two huge conventions, obviously a lot of voters paying attention to both of these candidates what they have to say as well as their running mates dealing with the economy. Looking at the polls now, Bill, are you getting a sense of either candidate, which one is coming out on top or whether or not there was a bounce coming out of those conventions?

SCHNEIDER: Well, we can't be sure yet because the post convention polls are just being carried out this weekend. We'll have a better idea tomorrow when we have been interviewing over the weekend. But right now CNN has looked at the poll of polls, three polls taken during the Republican convention last week. And the two contenders are just one point apart. Obama 44 percent, McCain 43 percent. That is really neck and neck. It looks like this race is closing up.

And one of the main reasons of course is that with the appointment of Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket, Republicans have a new burst of enthusiasm around their ticket. A lot of them had doubts about John McCain, but they are coming onboard and effectively what both conventions did is what they are supposed to do. Namely, the parties are closing ranks behind their nominees. The democrats have, the Hillary Clinton voters are supporting Barack Obama in large numbers. That was the meaning of the democratic convention.

The Kennedys and the Clintons getting onboard with Obama. And now conservatives, the conservative movement has come onboard with John McCain with the appointment of Sarah Palin. So both parties are closing ranks and the election is about as tight as it can possibly be.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Bill. Obviously, those conventions did another thing. It really kind of piqued the interest and generated a lot of enthusiasm about people who really weren't watching necessarily these two candidates, this fierce competition. Well, now it's very clear that voters are paying especially attention to what is happening and the countdown continues. I think it's 58 days away until election day.

I want to bring in our co-host Mary Snow who is New Mexico, Albuquerque. You've been following the republicans and John McCain. Bill was telling us that this is a neck and neck situation here. This is a very competitive race. You've been covering Palin. Obviously, she plays a role in this.

SNOW: Absolutely, Suzanne. When you see the crowds, the numbers of people turning out and the enthusiasm, something we hadn't seen before she had been chosen as the running mate. So many people in the crowds who are in Colorado Springs yesterday, they were there for the McCain- Palin ticket. But you'll see so many signs and buttons specifically voicing support for Governor Sarah Palin. Now, one question though, Suzanne, while she has been gaining so much attention on the campaign trail, of course, the question was when will she face the media? And we've learned this afternoon that Sarah Palin will do an interview, her first interview since being chosen with ABC later this week.

Earlier today the McCain campaign manager Rick Davis had said when asked about this, he had said she will do it when we feel, the campaign feels she is comfortable doing it, when they want to do it on their time table. Obviously, no love lost between the McCain campaign and the press over the past week as we've seen so much criticism about the covering of Sarah Palin.

But her first interview to come later this week on Thursday with ABC. She's going to be back to Alaska to attend a ceremony where her son is going to be deployed to Iraq and that will be happening on September 11th. Now, last night here in Albuquerque, Senator McCain, Sarah Palin were addressing crowds, organizers say they gave out about 6,000 tickets.

Certainly a lot of enthusiasm for her. One of the messages she has been trying to hit home for John McCain is this whole message of change and who can really bring change. And she has been trying to hammer home that theme. Let's take a listen to what she had to say here in Albuquerque last night.


GOV. SARAH PALIN, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator McCain has called the two of us a team of mavericks. He knows that we've done some shaking up there in Alaska. As mayor, I shook up the old system and took on the good old boys. And I reminded people that government is not always the answer. In fact, too often it is the problem. So we got back to basics and we put government back on the side of the people.

What we did up there, I eliminated personal property taxes. I eliminated small business inventory taxes and business license renewal fees. Things like that they just got in the way of the private sectors' progress. Property taxes were too high. I cut them every year I was in office. And these reforms worked.

We became the heart of the fastest growing area in the state. So next I brought the same agenda of positive change to the governor's office. First we took on the old politics as usual in Juneau and we broke the monopoly that had controlled our states, the big oil interests, and the lobbyists and the special interests.

We came to the office promising major ethics reform to end the culture of self-dealing. And today that ethics reform is the law of the state. As mayor and as governor, I try to lead by example. So as mayor, I took a voluntary pay cut which didn't really thrill my husband. And as governor, I cut the personal chef position from the budget, which didn't really thrill my kids. And I love to drive myself to work as governor to and from the office. And as for the luxury jet that came with the office, I put it on ebay. We cleaned up corruption in our state. That's been our mission. And I'm ready to help this man clean up Washington, D.C.. So second, we came to office promising to control spending by request of possible, but by veto if necessary. And today our state budget is under control and we have a surplus. And I put the veto pen to nearly $500 million in wasteful spending. We also suspended the state fuel tax. And with our surplus, I'm returning a chunk of that surplus straight back to the people because they can spend it better than government can spend it for them.

We gave money back to the hard-working Alaskans as their resources and in these tough times again I'm ready to help John McCain bring tax relief to all Americans, to all of you. And then third, I championed reform of earmark spending by Congress. And I told the congress, thanks, but no thanks for that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, we'd build it ourselves.

Now, just today our opponent brought up earmarks. And frankly I was surprised that he raised the subject. I didn't think he'd want to go there. Our opponent requested nearly $1 billion in earmarks in just three years. That's about $1 million for every working day. Just wait until President John McCain puts a stop to that.


SNOW: That's Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin here in Albuquerque, New Mexico last night trying to make the case that republicans will bring about change. That is the message that Senator Barack Obama has really taken aim at and asked about the fact that the republicans are now trying to use this change message, a message he has made his corner stone of his campaign.

He replied by saying that Sarah Palin is more in line with Bush, President Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney. So that is one of the themes we've been hearing about a lot this weekend.

Coming up next, you'll hear directly from Senators Obama and McCain on their economic plans. Also, we'll get the very latest on Hurricane Ike. We're going to take a quick break. Stay with us.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. Hurricane Ike is moving across warm open waters. Cuba is now preparing for a direct hit from a powerful category 4 storm later on today. Evacuations and storm preparations are already under way. In the Florida keys, as well, President Bush has already declared a state of emergency in the sunshine state. The storm could hit the U.S. Mainland later on in the week.

And we're still not done with tropical storm Hanna who is still dropping rain in New England as it tracks toward New Finland. The National Weather Service is trying to determine if Hanna spawned a damaging tornado yesterday near Allentown, Pennsylvania. Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras on the latest of these storms. JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Fredricka. We are watching Ike. It's over the open waters now. As you said, it just moved over great Inagua Islands in the Bahamas. That's the big one that you see right there. Packing winds of 135 miles per hour. So in the next couple of hours, hopefully we'll be getting some pictures in. We imagine quite a bit of devastation. Also, Grand Turk island right here, got pounded by this storm early this morning and about 80 percent of the homes had been damaged or destroyed. So a very powerful hurricane.

You can see it's making a beeline towards Cuba now. We are feeling the impact with some rain showers and also some rough surf. So a lot of rip currents along the Atlantic Coast there in Florida today. Here is your forecast track bringing it up just near the keys or west of there and then into the open waters of the Gulf. Our new computer model runs have just come in, Fredricka and they are shifting a little bit more westerly. We'll get a new track from the National Hurricane Center at the top of the hour and we'll let you know what kind of changes there just maybe with Ike.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll look for that. Thanks so much, Jacqui.

All we'll keep track of Hurricane Ike as Jacqui was mentioning and all other weather-related incidents. Much more of CNN's "Ballot Bowl" right after this.


SNOW: Welcome back to "Ballot Bowl," a chance for you to hear directly from the candidates. I'm Mary Snow in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Senator John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin held a rally last night. New Mexico is a state republicans are really hoping to get this time around in 2008. Back in 2000 it was a state that went democratic. 2004 went republican. Fierce fight here in this state. And last night Senator John McCain addressing the crowd, talked about the economy. Talking about the tough times that Americans face. Let's take a listen to what he had to say last night here in Albuquerque.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These are tough times. You are worried about keep your job or finding a new one. You are struggling to put food on the table and stay in your home. The jobs number yesterday was another reminder of that and today we are looking at possible failure of our home loan agencies. We need to keep people in their homes, but we can't allow this to turn onto a bailout of Wall Street speculators and irresponsible executives.

You can't let it do that. We are not going to bail out those speculators and executives. All you've ever asked of government is to stand on your side, not in your way. And that's what I intend to do, stand on your side and fight for you. I'll keep taxes low and cut them where I can. My opponent will raise them. I'll open new markets to our goods and services. My opponent will close them. I'll cut government spending. He loves big government. My tax cuts will create jobs. His tax increases will eliminate them.

We need to make health care affordable and available for all Americans and you do not want government-run health care in America. We will not have bureaucrats stand between you and your doctor. And my friends, I know how to reach across the aisle. I worked with Democrats. I know how to get things done in Washington. And I've got the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not. He's never stood up to his party on any major issue in the time that he's been in the United States Senate. I have. I can and I will. And when I'm president, we are going to start putting our country first. Now I would like to remind you again the facts on the ground are that we have succeeded and that we are winning in Iraq. And our troops -


MCCAIN: And our troops will come home with honor and victory, not in defeat as what will happen if Senator Obama has his way.


SNOW: That's Senator John McCain last night here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, touching on a number of issues, but on the economy. When asked specifically about the government bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he said he felt it was something that he believed that had to be done, but said going forward there needs to be more regulation, more oversight.

One of the things he has been stressing, lowering taxes as he talks about the economy. Something he has come under criticism for specifically by democrats who say he hasn't spent enough time addressing economic solutions. Also when asked in an interview this morning on CBS about comments he had made about the economy being fundamentally sound, he said that he meant what he meant by that statement. He says that he believes that America has a strong system and will get through this.

But certainly the economy, while there is not so much excitement in these rallies underlying all that enthusiasm everyone has been talking about, certainly the economy though is ranking so high among issues people here care about.

MALVEAUX: And Mary, yesterday I was in Terre Haute, Indiana with Barack Obama. Obviously, he was talking about the economy as well. Indiana, as you know, very important. This is a Republicans stronghold President Bush trounced John Kerry back in 2004 by 21 percentage points. Obviously though, Barack Obama feels that this is a state that is in play. That it's a possibility. So he is reaching out to those blue collar working class voters talking about the economic issues. And what he is talking about is 95 percent tax cut. He says for American families. Some $50 billion in state aid and funds for highways and for education and things like that, upping the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour. These are the kind of things he is talking about.

I want you to take a listen to his economic plan and how he was addressing specifically those job numbers, the unemployment rate, those numbers that came out on Friday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need change. But let's be absolutely clear about what change is and is not. Change is not continuing the same tax policies of George Bush given tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. Change is making sure those tax breaks go to companies that are investing right here in Terre Haute, right here in the United States of America.

Change is not saying we made great economic progress under George Bush and then proposing tax cuts $200 billion for corporations, including $4 billion to Exxon Mobil. Change is giving a tax cut to 95 percent of Americans as I've proposed. 95 percent of the American people would get a tax cut under the Obama plan. And I wouldn't leave $100 million out like John McCain does because you deserve some relief from my high gas prices and food prices. You need a little more money in your pocket.

Change is not a health care plan. This is what John McCain's proposed, which says we are going to end the tax deduction for employers to give health care benefits to their employees, which means that employers will stop providing health care and then giving you a $5,000 credit to buy your own health care, except it costs $12,000 to $14,000. I guess that is change. It's just not the kind of change we need.

Here's what change is saying to people who already have health insurance and the employers who are providing it, we'll work to lower your premiums. That's by $2,500 per family per year. And if you don't have health insurance, you can get the same kind of health care that members of Congress give themselves and investing in prevention so people aren't going to the emergency room for treatable illnesses and not waiting 20 years from now to do it or 10 years from now to do it, but doing it by the end of my first term as president. That's the change that we need.

MALVEAUX: Barack Obama outlining his economic plan, his health care plan. He is talking about and reacting to the numbers 84,000 jobs lost in the month of August a five-year high. Talking about the fact that 95 percent of families would get a tax break. Those making more than $250,000 would not. Barack Obama trying to make the case that he is the candidate of change here, economic change that John McCain is not.

Coming up after a break, his running mate Joe Biden out of Florida. Trying to make the case a little bit more, but in a different style more the attack dog style. Stay with us as BALLOT BOWL continues.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back to CNN's BALLOT BOWL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux here in Chicago. Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden both of them making the case here that the Bush administration on their watch, that they are responsible for this economic down turn for this housing crisis, for this credit crunch. Both of them making the case and making the case that they believe that John McCain would be more of the same. That is their line and that is the line that they are delivering to voters.

Joe Biden, the running mate, obviously playing the attack dog role in all of this in Sarasota, Florida, earlier in the week, stressing it was eight years under the Bush administration their watch that things went downhill and they believe the John McCain administration would make it worse. Take a listen.


SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, folks, one of the most remarkable sentences I heard uttered by the presidential campaign organization of Senator McCain was uttered last night by John's campaign manager. A guy named Rick Davis. He said this election is not about issues. That's what he said. Well, in a strange sense it's not about issues. It's about the lives of the American people. It's about whether or not you can fill up your gas tank. It's about whether or not as that adjustable rate mortgage changes and the same time your wife or husband and a two-wage earner family loses their job, you lose your house. It's about those people in this state particularly who find themselves in bankruptcy because of health care bills and/or losing their home because of foreclosure.

It's about so many of you and people you know who all last spring sweated bullets in terms of could you come up with the tuition for the fall for your son or daughter? It's about all of you and all Americans who every single day worry about whether or not at their job, their employer is going to drop their health care policy. They worry about whether or not if they have their own policies as the rates continue to go up, can they pay it? This is beyond the 48 million people who have no health insurance and it keeps rising. You know people say to me, you know, people can go to the emergency room. Let me tell you something, those of us who have health insurance, and I had over $1 million in bills just for me by today's numbers. I had two cranial aneurysms, a total of 59 days in ICU. I was like many of you in the hospital recovering and recovering for seven months from those things.

I had other things happen to me and I know what medical bills are. When I lost my wife and daughter, my two kids are badly injured and all the time it took for their recovery. Let me tell you something, I had insurance. I had insurance. All I worried about was the co-pay and the health of my children. But I promise you, I promise you, people who don't have health insurance; they know the cost of what they need. There's people going to bed tonight in Sarasota staring at the ceiling and looking at their pregnant wife who is asleep on their left or right side and knowing, knowing, literally, not figuratively if the baby is premature it costs an average of $350,000.

They know that their home, their business, their literal livelihood is at stake. They know what it costs for mastectomy. They know what it costs and what it will do to their lives. The fear in which they live, the anxiety they have is palpable. It is real. Ask anybody. Or any of you don't have health insurance; tell your neighbor what it's like. I have never seen a time in my years as United States senator since I was 29 years old, I have never seen a time when so many people have been knocked down and the government has done so little, so little to help them back up. As a matter of fact, they put obstacles in their way. John McCain has a proposal. Those of you who get health insurance from your employer, he proposes that a dollar value be attached to that just like your wages. That it be treated as income and you are taxed on that. So if your health policy adds up to $14,000 a year, then that's added to your income. If it adds up to $5,000 a year, that's added to your income and it's taxed. No, I mean, this is real serious stuff, man. This is life and death stuff.


MALVEAUX: Joe Biden outlining some of the specifics about health care as well as economic policy. Also taking a couple of hits against John McCain. Obviously the economics of all of this, voters paying very close attention to that. After this brief break, we are going to hear from John McCain. He is going to talk about the fact that special interests will be done with and earmarks, as well. These are some of the promises that he will keep if he is president.

We're also hearing from Barack Obama, as well. He's going to be hit back hard from the GOP, some of the attacks that have been back and forth overt last week. Stay with us.


SNOW: Welcome back to BALLOT BOWL. I'm Mary Snow live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fifty eight days to go to Election Day. In this final sprint, Senator John McCain has been hammering away at a theme that he has really been stressing along the way. That is fighting earmarks. The last two days he has made it a big subject of his speeches to rallies. In Wisconsin on Friday, he certainly spoke about it. Let's listen to what he had to say.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I reiterated last night my admiration for Senator Obama, but let me tell you again we are going to win this election. In this turnout in Cedarburg is what our campaign is all about we are going to go across the small towns of America and we are going to give them hope and we're give them confidence and we will bring about change in Washington, D.C. and we will not talk about it, but we'll do something about it.

You know, I've been called a maverick. That's somebody who marches to the beat of his own drum and sometimes it's meant as a compliment and sometimes it's not. My friends, I was not elected miss congeniality in the United States Congress again this year, I'm sorry to say. I fought corruption and it didn't matter. It didn't matter if they were Democrats or Republicans. I fought the big spenders. I fought the pork barrellers. My friends, when I'm president, the first earmark pork barrel bill that comes across my desk I will veto it. You will know their names. We will stop this corruption.

And my friends, I'm not talking about just bad things. I'm talking about corruption. We have former members of Congress residing in federal prison because of a system of earmarking and pork barrel spending that has corrupted what used to be good people. My friends, it's going to stop. We're not going to spend again $3 million of your tax dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don't know if that was a paternity issue or criminal issue, but we're not going to do it anymore. We're not going to do it anymore. We're going to stop it.

As governor of Alaska, Governor Sarah Palin said, we don't need a bridge to nowhere. If we do, we'll build it ourselves. That's the kind of person, a leader we have. Let me talk to you about energy, my friends. We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much. We are going to achieve energy independence. We are going to stop it. My friends, my friends, if some of that money ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations, this is a matter of security issue. Who is hurting the most when they go to the gas station today?

The lowest income Americans that drive the oldest cars. It's unfair and it's got to stop and it will stop and we'll achieve energy independence. We'll produce more energy at home and we will drill offshore and we will drill now. We will drill now. My friends, we'll build more nuclear power plants. We'll develop clean coal technology. We'll increase the use of solar and natural gas. We'll make everything happen. It's all of the above, my friends. Senator Obama thinks that we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power.

You can't do that, my friends. We've got to drill and we've got to have nuclear power. My friends the French, French generate 80 percent of the French electricity is generated by nuclear power and they reprocess to spend nuclear fuel. By the way, in case you haven't noticed, we now have a pro American president in France. Which shows you if you live long enough, anything can happen, as well.


SNOW: Senator John McCain Friday in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. You hear there two themes that he has really been hitting on, energy independence, but also wasteful spending. That has been the corner stone of his campaign. He just indicated there a few minutes ago that is a message he will take across the country. This as he really tries to hit home and sharpen this message that he's trying to portray of bringing about change.

That is something that has come under criticism by Democrats who are trying to portray him as an extension of the Bush administration. Senator McCain also taking aim yesterday at fellow Republicans saying that the GOP has been guilty of going on a spending spree with taxpayers' money. While he's attacking Democrats, also trying to carve out a line between himself and fellow Republicans. Certainly Democrats have seized upon this.

Coming up next, we'll hear Senator Barack Obama's response to his GOP critics. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Welcome back to CNN's BALLOT BOWL, I'm Suzanne Malveaux in Chicago. We've been listening to Barack Obama defending himself earlier this week. Also north eastern Pennsylvania, a battleground state, Barack Obama specifically taking on the GOP Republican criticism regarding his record, regarding his policy, regarding his own personal family history. Let's take a listen to Barack Obama.

OBAMA: Given the urgency of what we face, given the struggles that middle class families all across are America are going through, would you think that that would be the focus of every elected official and certainly both political parties, but if you caught any of the performances in St. Paul last night, they seem to have a lot of fun with themselves. They were enjoying themselves. They spent a lot of time talking about John McCain and his biography. It is a compelling biography. He served our country with bravery and honest during Vietnam.

They spent a lot of time talking about me and weren't quite as accurate in their portrayals of me, but that's to be expected. Some reporters ask me, what you thought about being attacked so savagely. I said, you know, what else do you expect them to do? This is what they do every four years. Anyway, I've been called worse on the basketball court. It's not something I spend a lot of time worrying about. They talked about John McCain. They talked about me a lot. You know what they didn't talk about? They didn't talk about you. They didn't talk about your hopes. They didn't talk about your dreams. They didn't talk about your struggles. They have gone so far through two nights in which they have not talked about a single idea that would actually make your lives a little bit better. And if you think I'm exaggerating, ask yourself. What are they going to do to make college more affordable?

Do you have any idea? What are they intending to do to create good jobs at good wages here in the United States? Do you have any idea? What's their plan for health care and you have 47 million people with health insurance and if you have health insurance you see your co-pays and adjustable and premiums going up. Businesses are suffering because they are trying to keep up with the rising costs of health care. Was there a single sentence that would have described how they are going to fix this basic problem in our economy and basic problem for ordinary families all across America? You did not hear a thing. Not one thing. So the question we've got to ask ourselves is, what America are they living in? What are they seeing? Because I don't think that John McCain is a bad man.

I just don't think he gets it. And I don't think the Republican Party gets it. Because if they got it, then they couldn't propose to continue the same George Bush economic policies that have gotten us in this mess in the first place. They couldn't propose as John McCain has proposed $200 billion in tax breaks for wealthy corporations, including $4 billion for Exxon Mobil that just went through three consecutive quarters of making more money than any corporation in the history of the United States, windfall profits on oil, yet leave $100 million working families, 100 million people out of any tax relief whatsoever. One hundred million working families, 100 million people out of any tax relief whatsoever.100 million working families, 100 million people out of any tax relief whatsoever. If he knew what was going on, surely that is not what he would propose.

I'm assuming he would not have put forward a health care plan that actually taxes the health care benefits that employers provide for their employees. And which will result potentially in more and more employers getting rid of health care because they can't afford to provide it. He'll give you a $5,000 tuition credit. Only problem is health care is going to cost you $12,000 or $14,000. If you've got a pre-existing condition or you are 55 and you don't qualify for Medicare and you've already got ailments, good luck trying to get insurance on the private marketplace.

He doesn't get it. If he got it, surely he would have some plan to make education work because he would understand that we are in a fierce competition with China and India and that if we don't make sure that we are providing a world class education, we will not be able to compete in the 21st century. Not one word from John McCain or any of his surrogates about it.

MALVEAUX: Coming up next, we'll hear from both candidates. Each one of them claims they are the change candidate. But who is right? Who is really the changed candidate? We're going to be discussing that after this very quick break. Stay with us you are watching CNN BALLOT BOWL.