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McCain, Obama spar in testy final debate

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2008-12-10

US presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain clashed over their economic platforms, negative campaigning and a host of social issues such as abortion, health and education in their final televised matchup before the Nov. 4 polls.

FRANCE 24's special team of Observers weigh in on the final Obama v. McCain debate. Click here to read their verdicts.


Watch our Top Story: 'Obama, McCain and the Plumber'


With barely three weeks to go to the Nov. 4 vote, the third and final 2008 presidential debate saw John McCain and Barack Obama sparring over their economic platforms, negative campaigning, and a host of social issues such as abortion, health and education in a tense, often testy debate.


The debate at the Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, kicked off with McCain and Obama battling over their tax plans with the Republican candidate frequently citing “Joe the plumber” in his attempt to convince voters his policies were aimed at helping average Americans.


Criticising Obama's proposal to raise taxes for households earning more than $250,000 a year, McCain said the Democrats’ policies would hurt potential small business owners such as Joe Wurzelbacher, a plumber who met Obama on his campaign trail.


"Why would you want to raise anybody's taxes right now?" asked McCain. “Joe, I want to tell you I’m gonna’ help you buy that business and keep your taxes low.”


Obama, on the other hand, noted that his tax cut proposal was not aimed at small businesses or the entrepreneurial dreams of American citizens, but at large businesses.



The final presidential debate was dubbed the “last chance salon” for McCain, whose ratings have been sliding in the national opinion polls in recent weeks.


With the very first question posed by moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News, the Arizona senator launched into a frontal attack, accusing his Democratic rival of waging “class warfare.”


As he promised before the debate, McCain brought up the controversial issue of Obama’s brief relationship with William Ayers, a former 1960s radical. “We need to know the full extent of that relationship,” said McCain.


In his response, Obama categorically stated that Ayers “is not involved in this campaign, he has never been involved in my campaign, and he will not advise me in the White House.”


Ayers, a university professor who has since renounced violence, once served on a community board with Obama in Chicago.



'I am not President Bush'


The subject of negative campaigning came up during the debate, with McCain admitting, "it's gotten pretty tough,” before adding, “I regret some of the negative aspects of both campaigns.”


He nevertheless went on to accuse Obama of spending “unprecedented amounts of money in negative ads against me.”


Noting that recent polls showed more Americans felt McCain was waging a negative campaign than his Democratic rival, Obama voiced exasperation over the loss of focus during the campaign.


“I think the American people are less concerned about our hurt feelings,” he said before adding, “What Americans can’t afford though is four more years of failed economic policies.”


Taking a swipe at his Democratic rival’s frequent attempts to associate him with President George W. Bush’s policies, McCain at one point snapped, "Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.”


In what has come to characterise his unflappable debating style, Obama responded, “If I occasionally have mistaken your policies for George Bush's policies, it's because on the core economic issues that matter to the American people…you have been a vigourous supporter of President Bush.”


With the campaign unfolding against the country's worst financial crisis since 1929, national opinion polls show many voters blaming the incumbent party for the country's deep economic woes.


A day before the final debate, the McCain campaign unveiled a package of economic measures, including an extra $52 billion in tax cuts to help retired people whose savings have been hit by the credit crunch.


Obama, on the other hand, proposed an additional $60 billion emergency spending package to help states, the unemployed and companies to create jobs.


The scale of the problem confronting the future US president was underlined Wednesday, with the Dow plunging 741 points or 7.96 percent. The market woes followed the announcement that the US government's budget deficit hit a record high of $ 455 billion in the current financial year.


Date created : 2008-10-16