As stock markets around Asia plunged Thursday morning (IST) in response to Wednesday's massive sell-off on Wall Street, US presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama battled fiercely for 90 minutes over economic issues and America's future in the third and final presidential debate. Though Senator McCain began strongly, he faded in the last 30 minutes, when Senator Obama gained confidence and energy. An initial CNN poll of Democrats, Republicans and Independents/'Undecideds' found Barack Obama the winner 58%-31%, a 27-point victory.
While the first two debates were at times testy and contentious, many pundits, bloggers and commentators had complained that the candidates were too vague and conservative in their responses.
But, thanks in part to the pointed questions of debate moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News, Wednesday night the two candidates rolled up their sleeves and engaged in confrontational, personal and nuanced discussions.
Early on, with the global financial crisis serving as the backdrop, the candidates debated general economic and budgetary issues, and Senator McCain performed surprisingly well, forcing Obama into convoluted and defensive answers. He advocated fiscal discipline and the necessity for a "spending freeze" in Washington to help cut the federal budget deficit, which he pledged to balance in four years or less. He also sternly asserted "I am not President Bush."
Text: Matthew Schneeberger
Image: US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican John McCain greet each other at the end of their third and final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Wednesday.
Photographs: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
Also read: US Elections