Polls boost for Kerry after final debate

Click to follow
The Independent US

President George Bush and election challenger Senator John Kerry clashed on domestic issues facing the United States in their third and final live televised debate today.

President George Bush and election challenger Senator John Kerry clashed on domestic issues facing the United States in their third and final live televised debate today.

Early polls suggested that Democrat Mr Kerry was once again the debate winner, after delivering a commanding performance.

Mr Bush and the Massachusetts Senator were quizzed about their policies on tax, the economy, jobs and social issues like abortion and gun control.

And Mr Bush gave a defence against claims that his leadership was influenced by his Christianity.

"I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That's what I believe," he said.

"And that's been part of my foreign policy. In Afghanistan, I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty.

"And I can't tell you how encouraged I am to see freedom on the march." He said he found prayer calming during "the storms of the presidency" and that he prayed for wisdom, for troops abroad and for his twin daughters.

He said: "My faith plays a big part in my life," but insisted that he did not want to "impose" his beliefs on other people.

Mr Bush and Senator Kerry came face-to-face at Arizona State University in Tempe.

The encounter was crucial for Mr Bush, who saw his poll lead slip following the first two debates. The men have hit a statistical dead heat in the latest surveys.

Mr Kerry delivered his domestic policy proposals directly into the camera lens, while Mr Bush often smirked at his opponent.

An immediate poll by CNN found that 52 per cent of those surveyed believed Mr Kerry was the debate winner, compared to 39 per cent for Mr Bush.

The first debate handed victory to Mr Kerry by a similar margin, while the second was more evenly split, with Mr Kerry on 47 per cent and Mr Bush 45 per cent.

The final debate was frequently bogged down with statistics, which may fail to connect with the viewing public.

The pair clashed once again on the war on terror, despite the debate's focus on the domestic agenda.

Mr Bush said America could be safer from terrorism "in the long run", adding "it just takes good, strong leadership".

Mr Kerry once again accused Mr Bush of rushing to war with Iraq, and taking his eye off the man behind the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden.

Mr Kerry accused Mr Bush of mismanaging the economy and scrapping the principle of "pay-as-you-go". He repeated his pledge to roll back tax breaks for people earning over 200,000 dollars a year.

The Senator added of Mr Bush: "He is also the only president in 72 years to lose jobs 1.6 million jobs lost."

Mr Kerry promised to "restore fiscal discipline" and "stand up and fight for the American worker".

Mr Bush retorted that 'pay-as-you-go' under Mr Kerry meant "you pay and he goes ahead and spends".

"Let me talk to the workers," Mr Bush said. "You have more money in your pockets as a result of the tax relief we passed and he (Mr Kerry) opposed.

"If you pay any tax at all you got tax relief." Mr Bush claimed his opponents policies were not properly costed.

"There is a tax gap and guess who usually ends up filling the tax gap. The middle class," he said.

Mr Kerry replied: "Being lectured by the president on fiscal policy is like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country."

He said he would raise the minimum wage from just over 5 dollars per-hour to 7 dollars per-hour.

Mr Bush tried to paint a picture of Mr Kerry as a weak liberal.

"There's a mainstream in American politics and you sit right on the far left bank," he said.

The men were then questioned on border control. Some 4,000 people still cross the border illegally every day, posing a terrorist threat.

Mr Kerry said the borders were more porous than before September 11. Mr Bush hit back saying that was an "outrageous claim".

Mr Bush again attempted to suggest that Mr Kerry would seek permission of the international community before declaring war to protect the US.

But his challenger shot back: "I have never suggested a test where we turn over our security to another nation.

"But I think it makes sense ... that we ought to pass a truth standard. That's how you gain legitimacy in the world."

On the issue of gay marriage, both men were opposed, but supported rights for homosexual couples.

On abortion, Mr Kerry said the decision was a choice between "a woman, God and her doctor".

But Mr Bush said he supported laws which would "help reduce the number of abortions".

He said he wanted to "promote life and promote a culture of life".

On healthcare Mr Bush said five million people had lost health insurance. But Mr Bush said the alternative of Government-run healthcare would lead to "rationing" and "less choice".

Among the statistics there were moments of warmth.

Mr Bush told how it was "love at first sight" when he met his wife Laura.

And Mr Kerry remembered his mother's final words of advice as she lay on her death bed. They were "integrity, integrity, integrity".

With the debates over, the candidates now have less than three weeks before America goes to the polls on 2 November.

Campaigning will continue in earnest later today.

Comments