McCain: "Americans will care" about Ayers

ABC News' Charles Gibson sat down with John McCain today in Milwaukee, WI and the Republican nominee acknowledged that he is trailing Barack Obama in the race for the White House but said he is used to being an underdog.

"This is a tough campaign," McCain told Gibson in an exclusive interview. "I'm the underdog. I've always been the underdog from the beginning."

Gibson met up with McCain in Wisconsin as the World News "Great American Battleground Bus Tour" continued through the Midwest. The interview will air tonight at 6:30pm ET on World News.

Read the full transcript of the interview here: LINK

And watch video clips here: LINK

Gibson asked McCain about the economy, his campaigns repeated references to William Ayers and whether Obama's character makes him unqualified to be president.

McCain did not give an inch when Gibson asked if Ayers is "critical issue or factor in this campaign."

"I think it's a factor about Senator Obama's candor and truthfulness with the American people," McCain said. "I don't care about Mr. Ayers, who on September 11, 2001 said he wished he'd have bombed more. I don't care about that. I care about [Obama] being truthful about his relationship with him. And Americans will care."

"Does he have the experience and the knowledge and judgment and has he made the right decisions?" McCain asked later, "And has he told -- been candid with the American people? I think that's important."

Troopergate developments
ABC News' Justin Rood reports that the major phase of the Alaska Troopergate scandal is expected to wrap up tomorrow, when the state legislature is expected to release the findings of its investigation.

The AK Supreme Court ruled today to allow the probe to continue, setting the stage for the 14-member bi-partisan Legislative Council to meet tomorrow morning and vote on whether to release the report. Rood reports that the special counsel, Stephen Branchflower, has kept a very tight lid on his work and only tidbits -- subpoena lists, some witnesses' names, interrogatories -- have been public.

More from Rood:
A second investigation still looms -- that by the state Personnel Board, conducted by a respected Anchorage lawyer, Tim Petumenos. Gov. Palin and her husband, Todd, will reportedly both speak with Petumenos. Neither of the Palins spoke with Branchflower, although Todd was subpoenaed; he eventually provided written responses to questions via his lawyer.

The Palins and the campaign have long sough to portray the Personnel Board probe as the only legitimate one. The main difference between that probe at the Legislature's effort? The legislature started its probe in July, while the Personnel Board probe just started (at Palin's prompting) last month -- so its findings won't be ready until after the election.

Bush remarks on the economy
The White House announced that President Bush will make a statement at 10am ET in the Rose Garden on Friday (note that it is after the opening bell). Per spokeswoman Dana Perino, the President will "assure the American people that they should be confident that economic officials are aggressively taking every action to stabilize our financial system."

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