NASHUA, N.H. (AP) – Sen. Joe Biden led off a flurry of presidential campaign activity with a town hall forum where housing market worries topped voters’ concerns.

In a nod to New Hampshire’s position as a swing state, Biden’s quick visit Wednesday was to be followed by a two-day trip by Sen. Barack Obama starting Friday and Republican Sen. John McCain’s visit Sunday.

It will be McCain’s fourth visit to New Hampshire since winning the state’s leadoff primary in January. Obama narrowly lost that primary to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Biden, who had campaigned for months in the state when he was seeking the Democratic nomination, dropped out days before the contest.

On Wednesday, he took five questions from voters at Nashua Community College in a forum squeezed between two fundraising events in Massachusetts. One came from a woman who asked him to “convert” her Republican friend – a real estate agent worried about her livelihood – and another from a man who decried mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as corrupt.

Biden criticized McCain for comments he made in March warning against vigorous government action to solve the mortgage crisis.

“He said it’s not the role of government to bail out big banks or small borrowers. Ladies and gentleman, that’s failing to make a distinction between the predator and the preyed upon,” Biden said.

“Think of all the people you know who plan their retirement and plan their kids’ college education based upon the equity they have in their home,” he said. “Now people are trying to just figure out how are you going to heat your home this winter … We have an obligation to put people in a position where they’re able to re-negotiate those loans. It’s in the interest of the country.”

McCain’s actual comment was, “It’s not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers.”

He did not mention McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

But he defended Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton after one questioner said he was glad she wasn’t selected as Obama’s running mate.

“Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States. Let’s get that straight,” Biden said. “She is qualified to be president of the United States of America. She is easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America, and quite frankly, might’ve been a better pick than me.”


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