The final US presidential debate was no doubt a nervous moment for both candidates. They covered it with smiles but each needed their rival to trip up badly. In the end it was really more of the same. No histrionics. Barack Obama continued to tar John McCain with the Bush administration brush but the Republican candidate was having none of it. “Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you want to run against President Bush you should have run four years ago. I’m going to give a new direction to the economy and this country.”
Obama said any confusion in voters’ minds was justified: “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, on tax policy, on energy policy, on spending priorities, you have been a vigorous Bush supporter.”
John McCain has been highly critical of Obama’s plans to raise taxes, especially when there is so little money to go around. “Why would you want to increase everybody’s taxes right now?” McCain asked. “Why would you want to do that? Anyone, anyone in America when we have such a tough time, when these small business people like Joe the plumber are going to create jobs, unless you take that money away from him and spread the wealth around.”
Obama maintains that when times are tight, governments still have to prioritise. “Senator McCain’s own campaign said publicly last week that if we keep talking about the economic crisis, we lose, so we need to change the subject. And I would love to see the next three weeks devoted to talking about healthcare, devoted to talking about energy and figuring our how the American people can send their kids to college.”
Obama later told supporters that he had had “a lot of fun with the debate” and was sorry there were not more to come. Two polls carried out immediately after the debate judged the Democratic candidate the winner.