today in black history

December 13, 2017

Human rights activist Ella Baker is born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1903.

The Final Showdown

POSTED: October 15, 2008, 12:00 pm

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With polls showing Senator Barack Obama widening his lead in the race for the White House, Senator John McCain must go on the offensive when the two men meet on stage at Hofstra University on Long Island for the third and final presidential debate. For McCain the need to aggressively counter his Democratic opponent carries its own risks. Over the past ten days there is evidence that the electorate has soured on the increasingly negative tone of the Republican candidate, and his running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, that has resulted in many of their supporters resorting to open expressions of violence against Senator Obama during campaign rallies.

The debate scheduled for Wednesday, to be broadcast over the ABC television network, is set against the backdrop of President Bush’s announcement of a bank bailout plan and both candidates proposing their own economic recovery packages. The volatility of the global economy, and the instability of the nation’s economy, has pushed economic issues to the forefront of the presidential campaign. It has also helped boost Senator Obama’s fortunes as polls indicate the Illinois Democrat is rated more favorably by voters who are most concerned about the economy.

Adding extra pressure on Senator McCain for Wednesday’s debate are polls that show him trailing in the key battleground state of Ohio, a state that has always been a “must win” for Republicans seeking the White House. McCain also finds himself losing ground in Florida, Virginia and Indiana, and he had already signaled surrender in Michigan. With the electoral vote map working against him, the Arizona Republican finds himself running out of time against a candidate with the two m’s: momentum and money.

For Senator Obama the challenge is to continue scoring points on the economy, and being able to counter an attack from Senator McCain while maintaining the temperament and composure he has demonstrated over the course of the campaign. His challenge to Senator McCain to “say it to my face” in reference to the Republican ticket’s attempt to tie Senator Obama to former Weather Underground figure William Ayers. It has been widely reported that the two men had a casual acquaintance based upon their participation on a local not-for-profit board, and the claim that the two had a close relationship widely rejected and discredited. Still, the McCain campaign has raised Ayers, and his Vietnam era activism, to Obama despite the fact that the senator was a child when the Weather Underground was involved in a series of bombings at government installations to protest the war.

McCain has insisted he will challenge Obama over his connection to Ayers, partly because his supporters have egged him on and partly because his running mate, Governor Palin, has been on the stump using Ayers’ name to attack Senator Obama. If McCain does reference Ayers it could result in a very colorful exchange between the two men, and set the tone for the final two weeks of the campaign. In addition to potentially driving his negatives further up, McCain also risks being confronted with his role in the Keating Five scandal as well as questions concerning the recent ethics finding against his running mate in her home state.

In many ways Senator McCain has boxed himself into a corner with no way out. By going negative before the last debate, and then backing off during the debate, McCain sent a mixed message that confounded his base. For many of his supporters his only recourse is to come out swinging but Senator Obama has proven himself capable of deflecting such attacks, and could use the opportunity to draw a contrast between him and his opponent.

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