The Politics of a Wall Street Crisis: Obama and McCain's 'Opportunity'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," September 17, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, the countdown is on. We are at 48 days from the presidential election. This week's Wall Street bombshells could not have come at a worse time for the candidates. Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy, Bank of America acquires Merrill Lynch and now the feds bail out AIG. How will all this affect the election?

Joining us is Mike Allen, chief political correspondent for Politico. Mike, this should be so exciting because the races are so close. And we're going to have a first, no matter what, whoever's elected. And then sort of the damper, the economy.

MIKE ALLEN, POLITICO.COM: Well, there is, but there's a huge opportunity for one of these candidates. And you've been talking for months about how the economy's the number one issue on voters' minds, and yet neither one of them has cornered it. Neither one of them clearly owns this issue.

So this is sort of a jump ball. If one of them would come out and say something clear and convincing, not be defeatist but talk to the American people about accountability, some smart regulation, they might be able to win the election just off that.

VAN SUSTEREN: But here's the problem, is that if the economy were so easy, all the so-called experts wouldn't have us in this mess. I mean, you know, the problem is that nobody really knows. I mean, people -- people pretend that he knows and -- but nobody does.

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ALLEN: Right. And that's why the campaigns have been a little bit flat- footed, they're a little bit ill-prepared for this. And also, they say, Anything we say today is going to be out of date tomorrow. Events are happening so -- in real time. And so the campaigns are convinced that the race is a little bit frozen. But that's not good for John McCain because uncertainty, nervousness, worry, that plays to the Obama themes.

McCain needs to be out there saying something convincing, making people realize that he's in control of this, and he hasn't been. As you know, he went out, he seemed to be flailing around. He threw out the thing about doing a 9/11-style commission to look into what happened. And then Obama sort of batted that down. He's backed off that. He's not saying that. So I predict...

VAN SUSTEREN: Even -- but even that -- I mean, like, I think the viewers, though -- at least I would assume that voters are a little bit sour on sort of all the talk (INAUDIBLE) even that whole thing about the commission, because when that idea was thrown up, you know that Senator Obama, for instance, was in favor of a 9/11 commission and -- and you know, I mean, it's -- so I mean, like, now he doesn't want a commission, I mean, you know, and you can do the same thing with Senator John McCain. Everyone keeps switching around.

Bottom line is people are really worried about putting food on their tables, getting the gas to the cars to get to work. And while it's so intriguing for us to watch from afar, people are really hurting, though.

ALLEN: Oh, they are. And this week, this really went from being a Wall Street a lead story to being a Main Street story. And that's because very quickly, in addition to the worries that you were talking about that are very real, very quickly, it's going to be much more difficult for people to get a loan to buy a car, to buy a house, to expand their small business. What someone said to me is credit is the oil in the engine of America's job creation machinery. And we don't have any oil, and people are going to really feel that effects in the weeks to come.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think (INAUDIBLE) I'd feel better if one of the candidates had said to me, Look, you know what? We don't know because if we did know, we wouldn't be in this mess.

ALLEN: So someone...


VAN SUSTEREN: But this is what I think we should try, you know?

ALLEN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: At least I'd feel better than that. Instead of all these -- I mean, I look at these numbers and I think -- I have a degree in economics. I look at these numbers, and I can't for the life of me figure out anything they're saying.

ALLEN: What would you think of one of these guys coming out and doing a ``talk talk,'' almost like Ross Perot used to do, explain to people where we are, talk about where they might want to go? I think what they've been saying until now are sort of placeholders for -- until they come up with what they want to say. And I predicted, and I'd be interested to know if you disagree -- I predict the next few weeks, one of these two candidates will be out there on the steps of the New York Federal Reserve or something like that, and they'll say, I have a four-point plan. And this is...



ALLEN: Something reassuring, not radical, but that will convince people: Hey, we should give this guy the keys.

VAN SUSTEREN: And not so I don't feel like I've been had (ph). That's the other thing. I don't want to be had on any of these complicated programs. But anyway, maybe I have a simple mind. Mike...

ALLEN: That's why we don't want a 10-point program, just four.

VAN SUSTEREN: Four points. Maybe I could handle four. Mike, thank you very much.

ALLEN: Thanks, Greta.

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