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Meet the Real McCain and Obama

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The best was yet to come. The last of three debates finally show the candidates true colors

Watch video from Hofstra during the debate »

Senator John McCain has a friend and his name is Joe the plumber from Ohio. Who is Joe the plumber you may ask? The New York Times says his name is Joe Wurzelbacher, a plumber who met Senator Barack Obama this week and told him how he feared his tax policies would punish him as a small business owner.

Joe the plumber of course is bigger than just Mr. Wurzelbacher. He also represents the American dream, the Average Joe who wants to start a small business of his own and grow that business into a successful venture. McCain used him as the quintessential example of the middle class—though McCain, for the third straight debate, never actually said the phrase "middle class"—and both candidates spoke directly to Joe when expressing their views about the economy and health care. But for the first time in three debates, we got to know a little more about the men behind the rhetoric. Thanks to moderator and veteran journalist, Bob Schieffer, who fired a fantastic salvo of questions, we finally heard about issues regarding education reform, abortion, and the use of negative tactics in the candidates’ respective campaigns. Better yet, we finally got to see these men in true form as they challenged each other's character and judgment.

Several times during the 90-minute back-and-forth, McCain mentioned how “angry” the American public is right now. But even though the economy is in a chaotic state and unemployment rates are at an all-time high, McCain spent a lot of time on the offensive talking about hurt feelings and the difference between himself and President George W. Bush, rather than bringing the issues at hand back to the table. His best rejoinder to Obama was: “I’m not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush you should have ran four years ago. I’m going to give a new direction to this economy and this country.” To which Obama responded: "...Sen. McCain voted for four out of five George Bush budgets."

Obama, as usual, kept his cool with a wry smile and a contented look. He did respond to several of McCain’s claims, including allegations of a connection to 1960’s radical William Ayers and the grassroots organization ACORN, which McCain said is “perpetrating one of the greatest voter frauds in history.” Obama answered the Ayers claim, but wasn’t exactly transparent in his relationship with ACORN and exactly how much money the troubled organization (which is under federal investigation) has given to his campaign.

Obama also showed why people find him so charismatic. Even McCain somewhat facetiously mentioned his “eloquence.” Obama's statements about parents stepping in and taking a bigger role in their children’s education as well as allowing women to make the spiritual and moral choice about their bodies and their lives in the event of an unplanned pregnancy gave the audience a chance to see how the Illinois senator deals with social issues pertinent to many of us.

If the election were today, CNN projects Obama would win with 277 of the electoral votes while McCain would garner just 174. Key states though, including North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida, are still up in the air, with 19 days to go. Ultimately, after all the debates, all of the rhetoric and all of the opinions, it’s up to you, me and Joe the plumber to go to the polls on November 4, and vote for the man who will bring the change we all so desperately need.

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