The Final Showdown

adding that “He would make an outstanding president if, Heaven forbid, something should happen to me.” McCain spoke of Palin’s experience as a reformer who has faced down Big Oil. Palin is “a reformer through and through and it’s time we had that breath of fresh air coming into our nation’s capital,” said McCain, who also mentioned her understanding of special needs families. When asked what each thought of the other’s VP pick, Obama diplomatically avoided commenting on Palin’s qualifications, choosing instead to say that she’s a capable politician who has excited the Republican base. McCain said that Biden is qualified in many respects but has been wrong on many foreign policy and security issues.

On healthcare, stayed true to campaign talking points. McCain said that Obama’s plan would mandate how people spend their money, while Obama countered that McCain’s plan will not help the majority of people seeking insurance and that many will lose their employer based healthcare plans, which McCain will tax.

Immediately following the debate, Obama-Biden campaign manager David Plouffe said, “Barack Obama showed the steady leadership that the American people need, and offered specific plans on the issues that matter to the middle class – creating jobs, cutting health care costs, building a new energy policy, and getting our economy moving. Senator McCain said that George Bush isn’t on the ballot, but he couldn’t name a single way that his economic policies will be any different. This was John McCain’s last chance for a game-changer, and he didn’t get it.”

McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker issued a statement that read, “John McCain won tonight’s debate with strong, clear straight talk about setting a new direction for our country and fighting for working families. He outlined a specific, bold plan for creating jobs, helping those near retirement, keeping people in their homes, curbing spending, lowering health care costs and achieving energy independence. He vowed to fight for ‘Joe the Plumber’ every day he is President and he affirmed his belief that we shouldn’t raise taxes just to ‘spread the wealth’.”

Larry Berman, a University of California, Davis political scientist and Carnegie Mellon political scientist Kiron Skinner both felt that this final debate was the best of the three.

“McCain had a strategy of offense. Obama had a strategy of defense and to stay the course. They both succeeded in putting forth their strategy. In some ways McCain performed better because he glaringly made his point over and over and over again and it was clear what he was doing,” said Skinner. “For him this was a very successful effective debate. I don’t know if he convinced the independent voters he needed to get to tonight but he looked much more in command of the issues. This was a debate between a liberal and a conservative and we saw that more than in previous debates. They were much clearer about where they stand and how they differ.” Skinner added that while she’s unsure what the undecided voters are thinking, McCain

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