Last weekend, McCain said he’s going to “whip Obama’s you-know-what,” and he needed to do just that if he has any hope of moving the campaign favorably in his direction in any meaningful way. The CW is that he’s at his best when he’s down and this week his mantra has been “Fight! Fight! Fight!” which indicates his awareness that he’s in the political fight of his life as he struggles to tighten his rival’s double-digit lead.
Moderator Bob Schieffer opened the debate by asking each candidate to explain why his economic plan is better than his opponent’s. As in previous debates, they repeated their campaign talking points. McCain charged that Obama’s plan would raise taxes on not only the rich but people like a plumber Obama recently encountered on the stump who hopes to buy the business he’s worked for over many years. The Democrat reiterated his stance of increasing taxes on only those who earn more than $250,000 per year.
Scheiffer then asked a question that went unanswered in the last debate about what policies each would have to postpone or even eliminate. Obama said he plans to implement a pay-go system and eliminate a host of programs that don’t work as well as make needed programs work better. McCain went back to his home mortgage rescue plan and also said he would cut subsidies for ethanol. “I know how to save billions,” he said. And when Obama attempted to link McCain with President Bush, the Republican retorted with, “Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush,” said McCain. “If you want to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.” But when Obama said that McCain had not differentiated himself from Bush, McCain cited areas in which he has, such as torture, the Iraq war, and climate change — but not the economy.
Scheiffer also addressed the nasty tone the campaign has taken. McCain took advantage of the opportunity to once again express his dismay over Obama’s refusal to participate in a series of town hall meetings earlier in the campaign and point out recent comments by the civil rights icon, Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who likened McCain’s recent negative attacks to the infamous segregationist, Gov. George Wallace.
Obama said he thought Lewis’s comments were inappropriate and unprompted by his campaign but the American people want the ability to focus on the really big changes the nation is facing and that’s what he wants to do. While McCain appeared a bit testy, repeatedly interrupting his opponent, Obama chose to take an agree-to-disagree without being disagreeable approach. This prompted McCain to bring up Obama’s relationship with ACORN, which the Republican Party has charged is involved in voter fraud. And while criticizing Obama on his relationship with William Ayers, McCain at the same time said his campaign was focused on the economy.
Each candidate was also asked to defend his choice of running mate. Obama spoke of Sen. Joe Biden’s foreign policy credentials, Senate record and their shared core values,