Presidential debates | Round 3, Hempstead, N.Y.

MAIN MESSAGE

John McCain: Straight from the Republican playbook: Obama can’t wait to raise your taxes, he’ll spend the money on wasteful programs, and he represents the far left of the political spectrum on abortion and giving government control over health care.

Barack Obama: Straight from the Democratic playbook: McCain George W. Bush, especially when it comes to how he would run the economy.

STYLE POINTS

John McCain: Let’s get on it! Less condescending than in previous debates, but down in the polls with only three weeks left, he was more eager to engage Obama directly, repeatedly challenging him on taxes, health care, education and the role of government, as well as his associations. Meanwhile, McCain acted like his feelings were hurt by attacks on him by Obama and his allies.

Barack Obama: Typically even-keeled, though he was on the defensive as McCain challenged him on his association with William Ayers and ACORN. Obama felt compelled to explain his relationship with each — essentially, nothing to see here — which took time away from his goal of contrasting his positions with McCain’s. “I think the fact that this has become such an important part of your campaign, Sen. McCain, says more about your campaign than it does about me,” he snapped.

SHARPEST ZINGER

John McCain: “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.”

Barack Obama: “If I occasionally have mistaken your policies for George Bush’s policies, it’s because on the core economic issues ... you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush. Now, you’ve shown independence, commendable independence, on some key issues like torture ... but when it comes to economic policies, essentially what you’re proposing is eight more years of the same thing.”

GAFFE FACTOR

John McCain: No gaffes.

Barack Obama: No gaffes.

HIGHLIGHTS OF WHAT THEY SAID

John McCain:
“Okay, what — what would I cut? I would have, first of all, across-the-board spending freeze, okay? Some people say that’s a hatchet. That’s a hatchet, and then I would get out a scalpel, okay? ... We have presided over the largest increase in government since the Great Society. Government spending has gone completely out of control; $10-trillion debt we’re giving to our kids, a half-a-trillion dollars we owe China.”

Q: Is Joe Biden qualified to be president? “In many respects. But I do point out that he’s been wrong on many foreign policy and national security issues, which is supposed to be his strength. He voted against the first Gulf War ... and, obviously, we had to take Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. ... In Iraq, he had this cockamamie idea about dividing Iraq into three countries.”

“Just again, the example of the eloquence of Sen. Obama. He’s for health for the mother. You know, that’s been stretched by the proabortion movement in America to mean almost anything. That’s the extreme proabortion position, quote, 'health.’ ”

“Now, my old buddy, Joe, Joe the plumber, is out there. Now, Joe, Sen. Obama’s plan, if you’re a small business and you are able ... and you’ve got employees, and you’ve got kids, if you don’t ... adopt the health care plan that Sen.Obama mandates, he’s going to fine you. ... Sen. Obama wants to set up health care bureaucracies.”

Barack Obama:

“Well, look, I think that we do have a disagreement about an across-the-board spending freeze. It sounds good. It’s proposed periodically. It doesn’t happen. And, in fact, an across-the-board spending freeze is a hatchet, and we do need a scalpel, because there are some programs that don’t work at all. There are some programs that are underfunded. And I want to make sure that we are focused on those programs that work.”

Q: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president? “That’s going to be up to the American people. I think that, obviously, she’s a capable politician who has, I think, excited a base ... in the Republican Party. And I think it’s very commendable the work she’s done on behalf of special needs (children).”

“I am completely supportive of a ban on late-term abortions, partial-birth or otherwise, as long as there’s an exception for the mother’s health and life, and this (bill in the Illinois Senate he opposed) did not contain that exception.”

“I’m happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you’re out there. Here’s your fine — zero. You won’t pay a fine, because ... as I said in our last debate and I’ll repeat, John, I exempt small businesses from the requirement for large businesses that can afford to provide health care to their employees, but are not doing it. ... Either they provide health insurance to their employees or somebody has to.”

WHAT FOLKS WILL BE TALKING ABOUT TODAY

John McCain: His new BFF, Joe the plumber (aka Joe Wurzelbacher of Ohio). And exactly how much are plumbers making these days?

Barack Obama: So was he palling around with terrorists or not?

Presidential debates | Round 3, Hempstead, N.Y. 10/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 16, 2008 5:12pm]

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