Final presidential debate gets personal

“With three weeks left until Election Day, presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain met for their third and final debate last night. Unlike previous debates, the candidates were free to interact more casually and give direct rebuttals to each other’s responses.”

With three weeks left until Election Day, presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain met for their third and final debate last night.

Unlike previous debates, the candidates were free to interact more casually and give direct rebuttals to each other’s responses.

This debate was held at Hofstra University on Long Island and concentrated on economic and domestic issues, the most pressing issues to many Americans.

With banks failing and stock markets tumbling, voters want to hear clear answers and promising solutions from the next president of the United States.

Tonight’s supposed to be a debate primarily about the economy but since it’s the last debate everything will come up, Dr. John Green, director of the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics, said. It won’t be the only thing that could change the election but it’s probably the best opportunity that either candidate has to really make their points.

The University of Mississippi held the first 90 minute debate covering foreign policy and national security issues.

Most polls and news sources showed Senator Obama winning the debate, although not decisively.

Time gave Senator McCain a grade of B- for his performance and Senator Obama an A-.

The second debate was a town hall format that allowed the audience and internet users to ask the candidates their questions directly.

The McCain campaign lobbied for the town hall-style debate in order to showcase Senator McCain’s strengths.

But, according to polls and political pundits, Senator Obama scored a decisive victory in this debate and many were underwhelmed by McCain’s performance.

Dr. Green, commented that the highlight [of the second debate] was they don’t like each other very much.

At McCain/Palin rallies, many supporters urged McCain to take off the kid gloves. In response, McCain vowed to whip Senator Obama’s you-know-what in the final debate.

Since the first two presidential debates were generally thought to be won by Senator Obama, who also leads in most national polls by 10 percent, the final debate marks one of Senator McCain’s last chances to change the course of the race in his favor.

There is some advantage to being aggressive in debates but a candidate can very easily overdo it, Dr. Green said.

Senator McCain stated he regretted the negative turn the campaign has taken, but did ask Senator Obama to explain his connection with Ayers and ACORN.

Senator Obama said that his relationship with Ayers was limited only to a professional acquaintance and distanced himself from connection with ACORN.

This line of questioning coincides with what Dr. Green predicted when he said the thing to watch for is in the last week or so there’s been a lot of talk about character.

Debates are typically a draw because both sides tend to play it safe in order to avoid costly mistakes and the winner is often decided by popular opinion rather than an objective analysis. It’s unclear who wins a debate but if you make a big mistake and say something foolish, you could lose it. And one of the dangers of being aggressive is making a mistake, Dr. Green said.

If this debate turns out to be a draw both candidates are in vastly different positions. Since Obama currently has a lead he has more flexibility. Of course he has to make the case that he would make a good president too, but he has more flexibility, Dr. Green said.

The Republicans, on the other hand, would have a very different battle if Senator McCain does not score a decisive victory. If it turns out to be a draw, as most debates are, there will be a very aggressive Republican campaign and a little more laidback Democratic campaign because they’ll have the luxury of being more cautious, Green added.

A decisive win by John McCain in this final debate would probably shrink the gap in the polls. With three weeks left before the election there is still time for the presidential race to become closer.

He has three weeks to go and he really does have enough time to catch up but he’s gotta start now. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on him to be aggressive, to be more persuasive than Senator Obama, to try to get him to make a mistake, Dr. Green said.

Through the course of the debate the senators covered topics ranging from economics, energy independence, education and the appointment of Supreme Court Justices.

They stressed the differences in their policies and the weaknesses of their opponent’s. They also spent a lot of time discussing the campaign’s negative tone and their opponent’s controversial ads.

Senator Obama focused on issues like healthcare reform, tax cuts for 95 percent of working Americans and a commitment to education reform and energy independence.

When explaining his tax credit for college students Senator Obama said, I don’t think America’s youth are interest groups, I think they’re our future…we can’t say we’re going to do things and then not explain in concrete terms how we’re going to pay for it.

Senator Obama consistently tried to link Senator McCain’s plans with the failed policies of the Bush Administration. Senator McCain shot back, Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.

Senator McCain stressed his belief in lower taxes, the importance of offshore drilling and he consistently questioned Senator Obama’s character.

Last night, immediately following the debate, CNN asked debate watchers who did the best in the debate; 58 percent thought Senator Obama won the debate while 31 percent thought Senator McCain performed better. This was only the immediate reaction to the debate and more decisive numbers will be able available later.