The U.S. economic crisis dominated the start of the third and final presidential debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.
At the start of the debate at Hofstra University in New York, McCain said Americans are hurting and are angry because of the the economic crisis. He blamed the crisis on greed and excess on Wall Street and in Washington, DC McCain, a Republican lawmaker from Arizona, said homeowners need to be put first.
Obama, a Democrat from Illinois, said the country is experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He said the rescue plan he and McCain supported in Congress is an important first step, although he said he has not seen a plan that will help middle class Americans.
The two candidates also sparred over taxes. McCain said Obama would raise taxes. Obama said he and McCain both want to cut taxes, although they differ over whose taxes they want to cut. Obama has accused McCain of wanting to cut taxes for wealthy Americans. McCain accused Obama of proposing class warfare and asked why he would raise taxes on anyone.
The Tone of The Campaign
McCain and Obama also discussed the increasingly negative tone of the campaign. Both candidates said they wanted to run campaigns that focus on the issues that are important to Americans.
However, McCain says the American people need to know the full extent of Obama's relationship with an anti-Vietnam War radical. Obama said he served with William Ayers on a school board a decade ago, and that Ayers engaged in "despicable" acts 40 years ago. Obama said he was eight-years-old the time of the violent acts and that he has condemned those acts.
McCain also accused the Obama campaign of spending "unprecedented" amounts of money in negative attack ads against him. He is hoping to re-charge his campaign after falling behind Obama in opinion polls. For his part, Senator Obama is trying to maintain his momentum and avoid any costly mistakes.
Energy and Trade
The issue of energy was also debated. McCain said the United States can eliminate its dependence on oil from the Middle East and Venezuela within a time period of seven to 10 years. He promoted his plan to establish 45 nuclear power plants right away, and invest in wind, solar, natural gas and clean coal technologies.
Obama said he thinks the United States can stop importing oil from the Middle East and Venezuela in 10 years. He stressed the need to expand domestic production, and he said U.S. officials can "look at" offshore drilling, but that his priorities are solar, wind, bio-diesel and geothermal technologies. He also said it is critical that the United States develop a highly fuel-efficient car produced domestically.
McCain criticized Obama's stance on offshore drilling, saying the United States needs to drill now. He also criticized Obama for opposing a free trade agreement with Colombia. Obama pointed to abuses in Colombia as the reason for his position, including labor leaders he said are being targets for assassination on a consistent basis.
Obama, McCain Tout Running Mates
Senator McCain defended his vice presidential pick, first term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who critics have said is not experienced enough for high office.
McCain called Palin a "role model" to women and a "reformer through and through." He praised her record as governor of Alaska, saying she gave money back to taxpayers and cut the size of government.
Obama said Palin is "capable politician" but that it is up to the American people to decide if she is qualified to be president. Senator Obama said he and his running mate, Joe Biden, agree that the government needs to re-prioritize and make sure it is investing in the American people. Obama also praised Biden for what he said was a career history of fighting on behalf of working families. He said Biden would make an "outstanding" president if necessary.
Senator McCain said Biden is qualified for the office in many respects, but that he has been "wrong" on many foreign policy and national security issues.
Obama Ahead in the Polls
The financial meltdown in the United States has helped propel Obama in the polls nationally and in key states, with many voters apparently trusting him more than McCain to deal with the economy. The debate gives both presidential hopefuls a chance to win over undecided and independent voters.
A New YorkTimes-CBS News puts Obama ahead of the Arizona senator, 53 to 39 percent. Another national poll released Wednesday by Reuters/C-Span/Zogby has the Illinois senator ahead of McCain by four points.