President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry
are busy prepping for what will be the final word in a series of
debates that have grown increasingly heated.

The final debate will be held tonight at Arizona State
University at 9 p.m. and will focus on domestic policy.

The debate will allow the candidates to confront each other on
what voters consider to be the second most important issue of the
election: the economy.

It will also be the last opportunity the candidates will have to
address the entire nation and directly influence public
opinion.

Kerry will likely seize on last month’s unemployment
report from the U.S. Department of Labor to support his claim that
the economic recovery has been largely jobless.

The report found that job gains during the month of September
were weaker than originally projected.

On the campaign trail, Kerry has capitalized on popular fears
over outsourcing and attacked Bush for catering to corporations
that create new jobs overseas.

“I’m going to close the loopholes that actually
encourage companies to go overseas. The president wants to keep
them open,” Kerry said in last week’s debate.

Kerry has promised incentives such as tax breaks for firms that
keep their operations in the U.S., although economists say these
policies are unlikely to stem the tides of globalization.

Bush has pursued mostly liberal economic policies, with an
emphasis on free-trade agreements at the regional and global
levels.

He has also enacted protectionist policies, including tariffs on
steel imports and increased aid to the already heavily subsidized
agricultural industry.

The steel tariffs resulted in penalties from the World Trade
Organization, which have forced Congress to repeal the trade
barriers.

The president will likely tout his tax cuts, which he claims
have sped the economic recovery.

“We cut taxes for everybody,” he said in last
Friday’s debate. “Everybody got tax relief, so that
they get out of the recession.”

But Kerry argues these tax cuts have done more harm than good.
Bush has signed three tax cuts while drastically increasing
spending on homeland security and defense.

This policy has racked up record deficits that the younger
generation — which also must bear the burgeoning cost of
Social Security and Medicare as baby boomers retire — will
have to pay off.

“It’s the president’s fiscal policies that
have driven up the biggest deficits in American history,”
Kerry said during last Friday’s meeting.

Bush defended his fiscal policy in last week’s debate.

“I’m concerned about the deficit. But I am not going
to shortchange our troops in harm’s way. And I’m not
going to run up taxes, which will cost this economy jobs,” he
said.

The tax cuts have also been highly regressive. The bulk of
refunded money has gone to wealthy taxpayers.

Kerry vows to reverse this trail of red ink by repealing the tax
cuts for Americans who make more than $200,000 each year.

But much of this additional revenue will pay for Kerry’s
ambitious health care plan, which would expand health care coverage
to nearly all Americans by first rolling back parts of the Bush tax
cuts.

Bush has also made a promise to halve the deficit in the next
five years. But his actions while in office — he hasn’t
vetoed one Congressional spending package, according to The New
York Times — could make it more difficult to practice fiscal
conservatism.

With the debates reaching a wider audience than any other public
appearance of the candidates — including their parties’
nominating conventions — their effect on the nominees’
public image certainly is important.

When John Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential
elections, his victory was attributed in part to the collected and
confident image he projected during the first televised
presidential debate.

Bush holds a lead in most major polls and is tied with Kerry in
a few others. A plurality of registered voters in an ABC News Poll
conducted after the first debate said Kerry won.

But Bush and Kerry were in a statistical tie when the same poll
was conducted after the second debate.

The format of tonight’s debate will be the same as the
first meeting, with the candidates standing behind podiums and
responding to questions posed by a moderator.

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