From NBC's Ben Weltman and Domenico Montanaro
On any other day, this might not have mattered.
With Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, both presidential candidates had the opportunity to make their case on the state of the American economy.
The Democratic ticket, though, was quick to seize on part of McCain's speech this morning when he said, "Our economy, I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times."
"Fundamentals of our economy are strong" was the key phrase. But it wasn't new. And neither was the Obama response. (McCain later tried to clarify and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he agreed with the characterization.)
First Read searched through our database of the candidates' speeches and found McCain had used the phrase at least 16 other times, between Jan. 1st and June 5th of this year.
It was a regular portion of his stump speech during the Republican primary, but there was about a three-month gap after June 5th -- effectively when the general election began -- when McCain did not use the now-maligned turn of phrase.
Then on Aug. 20th, McCain appeared on conservative Laura Ingraham's radio show and made the claim yet again. The Obama campaign has since tried -- futilely -- to make it stick.
But on this rare day when the economy was in full focus, it seemed to break through.