From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
DAVENPORT, Iowa -- As the Democratic convention kicked off in Denver on Monday, Barack Obama told a group of undecided voters that he and Joe Biden understood the problems of ordinary Americans.
It's an argument that we can expect to see more of this week and in the closing months of the election, as the pair try to show they will do more to help hard-working and middle-class families than will John McCain. Today's event with about 250 people was billed as a "One Nation" town hall -- the same theme of opening night in Denver tonight.
Obama talked about Biden's foreign policy expertise and his work on the 1994 crime bill, but said the most important thing about him was that he never forgot where he came from.
"He's from a working-class family, that he still takes the train back every night to Delaware to spend it with his family," he said. "Joe Biden understands what you're going through because he's gone through it."
He went on to stress the humble beginnings of he and his wife Michelle.
"It was only six years ago when Michelle and I were still living in a small overcrowded condo without a garage, so we had to scrape the ice off the car windows and were still in debt for our student loans and hadn't really figured out how we were gonna pay for our two daughters' college educations," he said. "That's how we grew up. We went to school on scholarships."
The senator continued to refine his argument against McCain as a continuation of the Bush administration and someone who doesn't have plans to help ordinary Americans because he "doesn't get" their problems and argued it was time for America to try something new.
"Most people don't really think John McCain's gonna shake things up. The real argument the Republicans are making is Obama is risky," he said. "What I'm going to work my heart out to do over the next 70 days is to say to people the biggest risk is just doing the same, old things and thinking somehow we're going to get a different result, thinking we're going to get this country back on track."
After speaking for about 25 minutes about his own tax proposals and plans for health care, improving schools, reducing energy independence, creating jobs and rebuilding infrastructure, he took questions on issues ranging from how to deal with the crisis facing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to immigration to how to deal with Israel's concerns about Iran's quest for nuclear weapons.
He talked about his support for giving the administration the authority to infuse more capital into Fannie and Freddie or potentially to have a government takeover of the entities, but he stressed that the companies' investors, who had made profits from risky decisions should not be protected.
"If their stock tanks, that's not my problem. They were making money on the up side; they should take a hit on the down side," he said. "CEOs I have no sympathy for them, so I don't want them still taking out bonuses. The heads of these two companies took out $30 million in salaries and bonuses last year at a time when they're losing money and they're expecting taxpayers to bail them out. That's unacceptable."
There was a funny moment when a small-business owner in the crowd told him she was a supporter, but that her husband was on the fence. Obama called the man at work and spoke briefly with him before going on to talk about the need to help small businesses provide health care for their employees and get more access to financing.