The formal greetings were barely over at the third presidential debate, before Republican candidate Senator John McCain went on the attack, throwing verbal punches, jabs, and a few low blows at his front-running opponent, Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama.
The final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York had the most drama and the most clashes between the candidates. McCain was aggressive, sarcastic, and determined. Again, Obama remained calm, focused, and articulate to the finish.
Moderator Bob Schieffer asked questions about domestic issues and made a serious effort to keep the candidates on topic. McCain turned most of his responses into an assault on Obama. The Arizona senator brought up an Ohio plumber named Joe and used Joe’s doubts about Obama’s tax plan to beat up on the Illinois senator. McCain wove Joe the plumber into many of his responses. Surprisingly, Joe the Plumber was mentioned more than two dozen times during the debate.
Also, McCain ignored the voters’ disdain for personal attacks and made several attempts to smear Obama’s character. When Obama linked McCain’s policies to those of President Bush, McCain shot back, “Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I’m going to give a new direction to this economy in this country.”
Obama defended his assertion, “… the fact of the matter is that 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 supporter of President Bush.”
McCain was fiery and aggressive to the point of almost mauling Obama in the final debate. However, was his performance a game-changer? Top polls show Obama holding onto his lead over McCain. Still, McCain worked very hard in this debate and appears to have gained little ground with undecided voters, but it looks like he will get the vote of Joe the Plumber.