Barack Obama and John McCain were hit with blunt questions tonight about how they would "bail out" Americans hurt by the staggering economy. In the second of three debates, this one a town hall-style face-off, the candidates fielded questions from an audience of 80 undecided voters and moderator Tom Brokaw. In one of the evening's few surprises, McCain said the Treasury Department should buy up all the troubled mortgages in the country, and help homeowners renegotiate them.
In response to budget woes,McCain advocated an across-the-board federal spending freeze, while Obama said cost cutting should be "surgical," to insure that those who need help most continue to get it. The candidates aired their differences on tax cuts, health care reform, and energy policy. They sparred over each others' voting records, covering mostly familiar ground. As the evening heated up, McCain, trailing in the polls 4 weeks before Election Day, jabbed at Obama with derision, while the Democratic candidate responded by repeatedly linking McCain with Bush administration policies from economic deregulation to regime change in Iraq.