In the third and final televised debate between the US presidential candidates – billed as a crucial battle that could decide the outcome of the election – Republican John McCain was under pressure to perform. He entered the fray with one opinion poll claiming he was trailing his Democrat rival Barack Obama by 14 points.
First on the agenda was the economy.
“We both want to cut taxes,” said Obama. “The difference is, who do we want to cut taxes for? Senator McCain, the centre piece of his economic proposal is to provide 200 billion dollars in additional tax breaks to some of the wealthiest corporations in America. What I’ve said is I want to provide a tax cut for 95% of working Americans.”
It was their liveliest and most contentious debate, with McCain attacking Obama’s taxation plan, claiming it would harm the likes of “Joe the plumber”, an Ohio tradesman with aspirations to buy a business. Obama had argued with him on the campaign trail.
Then, surprisingly, McCain went on the offensive over negative campaigning.
“The fact is Senator Obama is spending unprecedented – unprecedented in the history of American politics, going back to the beginning – amounts of money in negative attack ads on me. And of course I’ve been talking about the economy, of course I’ve talked to people like Joe the plumber, and tell them that I’m not going to spread his wealth around, I’m going to help him keep his wealth. That’s what my campaign is all about and that’s what it will continue to be about”.
As to who was the victor, in one snap poll of debate watchers 56 per cent had Obama ahead with McCain on 39 per cent. But as for either of the candidates landing a knock-out blow clearing the way to the White House? That just did not happen.