Senators Barack Obama and John McCain had their final face-off last night at Hofstra University.
The conversations revolved around domestic issues like (surprise!) the economy, energy and health care, but be sure there was wiggle room for political attacks.
Trying to swing things in his favor, McCain made good on his promise and pressed Obama’s connection to former “domestic terrorist” William Ayers, with whom Obama served on an education board. Obviously prepared for the attack, Obama brushed aside the Republican’s charges by pointing out that a number of Republicans and respected professors sat on the same board. McCain looked flustered, as he did throughout most of the debate. We couldn’t even count all the eye-rolls dispensed by the statesman. Perhaps it was McCain’s scoffing that resulted in three instant network polls, CBS, CNN and Fox News, all declaring Obama the winner.
Compared to his last performances, however, McCain did a relatively good job and made a valiant attempt to pull heart strings when he insisted charges of racism have heart his feelings. The remark came after moderator Bob Schieffer asked the men if they were capable of admitting both sides have dipped into negativity. McCain, whose ads have almost all been of the attack variety, first tried to pin the blame on Obama, saying things would have been different had the Senator agreed to town hall debates early on in the general election. When that didn’t stick, McCain then tried to pit Obama against the increasingly vitriolic Republican crowds, some of whom have been known to call Obama a “terrorist” and have called for his head. By highlighting these elements, said McCain, Obama and his team have painted an unfair picture of the grand old party’s constituents, many of whom are veterans.
Let me just say categorically I’m proud of the people that come to our rallies. Whenever you get a large rally of 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people, you’re going to have some fringe peoples. You know that. And I’ve — and we’ve always said that that’s not appropriate.
I’m not going to stand for people saying that the people that come to my rallies are anything but the most dedicated, patriotic men and women that are in this nation and they’re great citizens.
And I’m not going to stand for somebody saying that because someone yelled something at a rally — there’s a lot of things that have been yelled at your rallies, Senator Obama, that I’m not happy about either.
Obama kept a level-head throughout the debate, while McCain appeared to be seized by emotion. While one reporter described the Democrat as “placid,” Republican strategist David Gergen commented that McCain’s performance was “an exercise in anger management.”
McCain’s most memorable moment came when Obama compared the candidate to his pal President George W. Bush, a charge that’s been thrust many, many times during this election. McCain was not amused and barked, “I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.” This from the man who claims “inexperienced” Obama should be in this election?
[Image: Damon Winter, NY Times]