The Final Debate: Joe the Plumber Replaces Joe Six Pack
8:01 p.m. Here we go, the final presidential debate. The carpet's red, the walls are blue and Bob Scheiffer's silver head is telling us the subject is domestic policy. Scheiffer's just introduced the candidates.
8:04 p.m. McCain just blundered -- "Fannie and Freddie May." John looks sleepy, blinking a lot. The candidates are seated, so we won't see any stage sauntering like we did during the second match-up.
8:06 p.m. Obama just said the fundamentals of the economy are "weak."
8:07 p.m. Obama's wearing the red tie and he also looks a little tired, and putting in plenty of "uh's" as has become his style over the last two meetings.
8:08 p.m. McCain mentions something about Obama meeting a guy named Joe who wanted to buy his business, putting him a higher tax bracket. "Joe was trying to realize the American dream -- McCain looks at camera; "Joe I want to tell you I'll help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for... I will snot stand for a tax increase on small business income..." What you (Obama) wants to do to Joe the Plumber is not help Joe realize the American dream."
8:09 p.m. Obama again rolls out the talking point that if you make less than $250,000 you will not see you taxes increase... Now the conversation I had with Joe the Plumber is that five year sago if you wanted to buy your business, you needed a tax cut then...
Again, McCain brings up Joe the Plumber. Who is this guy? Oops, there he just said it again. "Spread the wealth around," McCain said. The Arizona Senator has also mentioned "class warfare" once. Again, he mentions Joe the Plumber.
8:11 Obama mentions Warren Buffet here -- and McCain snarks, "We're talking about Joe the Plumber here."
8:14 Obama says nobody likes taxes. McCain interjects, "let's not raise anybody's taxes... McCain continues, let's cut taxes, not spread the wealth around."
8:14 p.m.As Scheiffer reads a question about the federal deficit, CNN shows images of watch parties. These people look bored.
8:15 p.m. Obama again mentions he wants to go line-by-line through the federal budget and cut programs that don't work. I wonder how much these two are going to stick to their talking points.
8:17 p.m. Scheiffer is keeping these two on task, more so that Brokaw and much more so than Gwen Ifill.
8:18 p.m. McCain: is looking a lot stronger here -- but says he would cut a marketing assistance program and opposing subsidies for ethanol. He would eliminate the tariff on sugar-cane based ethanol from Brazil.
Again, McCain mentions the $3 million projector for the Chicago planetarium. It's like a broken record here.
8:20 p.m. McCain: "Senator Obama, I am not president Bush."
8:21 p.m. John is doing that karate chop thing on the table to drive home his point. Barack has a smirk and I think he just rolled his eyes. Both these guys' body language lets me know they may be happy this is the final debate.
8:23 p.m. Obama seems a little flustered here, but takes a stab at Fox News. He takes home his point that McCain is proposing eight more years of the same thing. Now McCain is smirking. Ahh, the split screen.
8:24 p.m.Scheiffer's calling out both candidates for their negative campaigning... "Are each of you willing to say to each other's face what your campaigns have said about each other?" asks Scheiffer.
8:25 p.m. McCain: This campaign has taken many turns I find unacceptable. He mentions segregation and the George Wallace comparisons. Now McCain calls out Obama for not "repudiating those remarks."
8:27 p.m. McCain's essentially calling Obama a liar here about campaign spending.
8:28 p.m. Obama: "John, your ads, 100 percent of them have been negative."
8:29 p.m. Obama says the American people can't afford four more years of ailed economic policies.
8:30 p.m. McCain mentions he watched the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday where every other ad is negative about him. McCain just said that Obama is spending "unprecedented amounts of money on negative ads." I wonder how true that is.
8:31 p.m. Obama says that Georgia Rep. John Lewis acting on his own with the comparisons he made about McCain to George Wallace.
8:31 p.m. Obama mentions Palin -- not by name -- who didn't stop the calls for Obama's assassination during her rallies.
8:33 p.m. McCain: I'm proud of the people that come to our rallies. Wheneverou have 10, 15,000 people at a rally, you're going to get some fringe elements.
8:34 p.m.: There's a lot of bickering here. Who cares who says what at who's rally?
8:35 p.m. Obama brings the focus of the conversation back to economy, creating jobs, and ultimately "we're going to have to be able to work together."
"What we can't do is try to characterize each other as bad people..." Obama says.
McCain says that "we" need to the extent of the relationship with Mr. Ayers and ACORN, to which Obama holds back a laugh.
8:35 p.m.Obama: "Bill Ayers is a professor of education in Chicago." Obama continues to relay the information that was in an Obama radio commercial I heard on the way to the debate. No news here. He justifies his relationship with Ayers, but reiterates that Ayers has never been involved in the campaign nor will be nor will be in the White House.
8:39 p.m. On Acorn, Obama says the voter registration company had nothing to do with the campaign. But he did work with them to help people register to vote at DMV's.
"The allegation that Senator McCain has made is that my associations are trouble." Obama then goes on to list off his associations -- Warren Buffet, Joe Biden and NATO leaders.
8:39 p.m.: After spending a good dozen minutes talking about Obama's "associations" with other people, McCain says that his campaign is about the economy. You think he would hae spent more time on the economy in the past 10 minutes...
The running mates question...
8:40 p.m.Obama talks about Joe Biden, who "has always made sure he is fighting on behalf of working families..." OK, we all know enough about Joe Biden. Let's get to the Palin answer from McCain.
"Americans have got to know Sarah Palin. They know she's a role model to women and other reformers all across America. She's a reformer..." says McCain about Palin.
McCain goes for the hearts here by saying "she understands special needs families. She understands that better than almost any American I know."
Scheiffer to Obama: "Do you think she's qualified to be president?" He gives a stock answer. No solid quotes here.
8:45 p.m. It seems here like McCain is getting frustrated over Obama's confidence. As Obama smiles, McCain seems to do that patented grimace. He just said Joe Biden's ideas are "cockamamie." A good word, but it seems you only hear it spouted by politicians these days.
8:46 p.m. McCain shows confidence on certain issues, especially the current one about energy and selling foreign oil.
"Within seven, eight, ten years, if we put our minds to it, we can reduce our dependence (on foreign oil).
8:48 p.m. Obama says in ten years we can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. He looks right at the camera and is confident about it -- "We need to expand domestic production. That means telling the oil companies the 68 million acres they have leased, to use them or lose them." Obama then mentions off-shore drilling. But points out that the U.S. only has 3 to 4 percent of the world's oil. Like McCain, he mentions wind and solar power.
"We invented the auto industry and the fact hat we have fallen so far behind is something that we have to work on," Obama says.
8:51 p.m. McCain: "I have to admire so much Senator Obama's eloquence." Ouch. He makes the point that Obam said we will "look" at off-shore drilling, while McCain wants to do it yesterday. Dril baby, drill. Does that term seem sexually charged to anyone else? Anyway.
8:55 p.m. McCain mentions that Obama wants to negotiate with Hugo Chavez, like that's a bad thing. Talking to our enemies. Nah, let's just bomb them.
8:56 p.m. Healthcare is the new topic.
Obama says that health care is the issue that "will break your heart over and over again." He goes into anecdote about women in their late 50s with no health insurance... "If you have health insurance, you don't have to do anything... The only thing we're going to do is lower costs so they are passed on to you."
As Obama talks about "high quality care and choice of doctors," McCain has a look where his neck is craned back and slightly up, like he is excited to talk. And he comes out strong but empathetic with those of us who don't have insurance.
"We need to have more community health centers, we need to have walk-in clinics," McCain says.
Whoa. John McCain is going to give every American family $5,000 tax credit. Now McCain again mentions Joe the Plumber. Seriously, the New York Times or something better interview this guy. Poor Joe, he's having difficult times, McCain says.
9:03 p.m. McCain says that Obama wants to take Joe's money and spread the wealth. This Joe metaphor has devolved into the absurd.
9:06 p.m. McCain says that Supreme Court nominees should be based on qualifications, and mentions Breyer and Ginsburg, whom he voted for -- and says that Obama voted against Breyer and Roberts. What does this mean? Well McCain, says he will find the best people the world, err, United States of America, for the job of U.S. Supreme Court justice.
9:08 p.m. "This is going to be one of the most consequential decisions of the next president," Obama says. It is very likely that the next president will be making at least one, maybe two appointments and that Roe v. Wade will be "hanging in the balance."
"I think that abortion is a very difficult issue and it is a moral issue... Ultimately I believe that women in consultation with families, doctors and religious advisers are in the best position to make this decision."
Ultimately Obama defers to the Constitution on the matter.
9:11 p.m. McCain's really slipping in the jabs during this entire debate, calling one matter a "trial lawyer's dream." Going back to Obama's time in the Illinois State Senate, McCain brings up Obama's voting record on abortion legislation. I think I hear women across America groaning, because McCain appears out of his element on the topic.
9:13 p.m. Obama say's McCain's abortion accusations are "not true," to which McCain's eyes double in size and his eyebrows go up a few inches on his shiny forehead. If the election was based on facial expressions of both candidates, it'd be tighter race.
Obama's final abortion points:
"It divides us" (duh.)
"We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies." (duh.)
"They should not engage in cavalier activity." (duh.)
McCain looks anxious to respond. He mentions he's an adoptive parent and goes on, but Scheiffer cuts him off. On to education.
Obama: "(Education) probably has more to do with our economic future than anything." Obama links economy to military and international power, a point that's become more salient as Russia's economy has bolstered over the past few years.
Obama is in the zone talking about education, and speaks knowledgeably about the topic. He proposes a $4,000 education credit in exchange for some sort of community service. And he brings it home by telling parents to stop letting their kids watch TV and play video games.
9:19 p.m. McCain calls public education a civil rights issue, referencing segregation.
"We find bad teachers another line of work," McCain says. He's a booster of Charter schools, something Obama also supports. The McCain goes in with the classic GOP point -- "Throwing money at the problem is not the solution."
With as much as McCain talks about education, I'm really tempted to mention his class rank as a student himself. But I'll withhold that.
9:21 p.m. Obama says that the Bush adminstration "left the money behind" with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Obama mentions he agrees with charter schools, a point McCain supports, and the need for "making sure if we have bad teachers, if they can't hack it, then they have to move on."
9:23 p.m. With as much flack as Obama has received for being condescending, McCain oozes smugness. He admits that No Child Left Behind had flaws -- but he wants to reauthorize it. He, like Obama, backs early childhood education programs like Head Start.
9:25 p.m. McCain: "kids... precious kids... precious kids with autism... Sarah Palin knows about this, precious kids with autism."
9:26 p.m. The final statement by a coin toss... McCain goes first.
"My friends..." The first time McCain says it all debate. For some reason McCain keeps saying that America needs a new direction. Talk about stating the obvious; it's what we're going to get either way. He looks presidential here, looking right into the camera. It's rare for him tonight -- looking presidential, instead of say, grouchy and/or frustrated.
"Examine my record and my proposals for the future of the country... There's along line of McCains that have served our country for along time in war and peace... I hope you give me the opportunity to serve again. I'd be honored and humbled.."
Obama talks more conversationally with the camera, less acting it loks like.
"The biggest risk we cold take right now is to adopt the same failed policies and the same failed politics that we've seen over the last eight years and somehow expect a different result. we need fundamental change in this country and that's what I want to bring.
"I promise you that if you give me the extraordinary honor of making me your president I will work every single day tirelessly."
9:31 p.m. "Go vote now, it will make you feel big and strong," concludes Scheiffer, recalling a quote his ma always told him.
McCain: "Good job, good job, yeah!" McCain quacks to Obama as they vigorously shake hands.