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Final Debate: Obama, McCain Clash on Economy
    2008-10-16 09:11:46     Xinhua

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (L) (D-IL) answers a question in his third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (C) (R-AZ) at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, October 15, 2008. [Photo: Xinhua/AFP]

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The war of words was intensified as U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama argued about who has a better economic plan in their final debate Wednesday night at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

McCain asked his Democratic opponent Obama to clarify his relationship with Bill Ayers, a former 1960s radical who belonged to the Weather Underground.

"Mr. Ayers is not involved in this campaign, he has never been involved in my campaign, and he will not advise me in the White House," Obama said.

McCain's campaign has charged that Obama's association with Ayers should cause voters to question his judgment. Ayers was a founding member of the radical Weather Underground, a group that was involved in bombings in the early 1970s, including attacks on the Pentagon and the Capitol.

McCain and Obama went back-and-forth Wednesday over the negative rhetoric that has dominated the campaign trail in recent days.

McCain accused Obama of spending "more money on negative ads than any campaign in history." Obama hit back, saying that McCain's campaign had been running exclusively negative ads, and that the public found McCain to be running a more negative campaign than Obama.

Earlier, McCain shot back as Obama tried to liken him to the current president, telling his rival "I am not President Bush."

"If you want to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I'm going to give a new direction to this economy and this country," the Arizona senator said at the start of the third presidential debate.

McCain's remarks came after Obama charged that McCain is pursuing the same kind of policies as Bush.

Obama promised he would "go through the federal budget page by page, line by line, and cut programs that don't work" as president, echoing a vow his rival has made repeatedly.

McCain in turn promised an "across the board spending freeze," saying that he would balance the federal budget in four years and go on to name specific programs including subsidies for ethanol when moderator Bob Schieffer pressed both candidates to identify specific budget cuts they would make.

The candidates also butted heads over tax policy at the start of the debate. Obama said that "nobody likes taxes ... but we've got to pay for the core investments that make this economy strong."

McCain accused Obama of being a "class warrior" and asked why Obama would raise taxes on anybody during an economic crisis. Obama countered that both he and McCain want to cut taxes, but that his plan would cut taxes for "95 percent of American families," more than McCain's plan.

McCain insisted the government needed to help keep people in their homes, "putting a floor" under falling home ownership in the face of the mortgage crisis.

Obama charged that McCain's plan could end up being a giveaway to "the banks" rather than to homeowners.

The debate, comes as Obama, a Democrat from Illinois, continues to make gains in the polls. Obama currently leads McCain, a Republican from Arizona, by 8 percentage points, according to CNN's average of national surveys.

Obama on Wednesday also made some gains in key battleground states, according to CNN's Electoral Map. It's the pair's final face-off before the Nov. 4 Election.

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