The buyout of Merrill Lynch, the bankruptcy of Lehman Bros.—and whatever repercussions follow—could easily overshadow Hurricane Ike, rising gas prices, and the Sarah Palin show. Americans will want answers from the candidates—and as of now, they are not getting them.

John McCain issued a statement today on the financial crisis in which he blamed government “regulation” for what happened: McCain declares, "We cannot tolerate a system that handicaps our markets and our banks and places at risk the savings of hard-working Americans and investors.” That’s 1920s Republicanism—and exactly what one would expect from a candidate whose chief economic advisor was former Sen. Phil Gramm.

But what about Barack Obama? This kind of crisis places a premium on intelligence and the ability to explain and propose solutions for very complex problems. And it’s a favorable political terrain for Democrats, because the root of the crisis was the lack of government regulation. There is still nothing on Obama’s website, but he made a statement this morning that gets to the point:  "The challenges facing our financial system today are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren't minding the store.  Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression."

--John B. Judis