Moderator Bob Schieffer noted that the campaign has "turned very nasty," citing some examples. Then he opened the door for both candidates to bring those attacks into the debate. "Are each of you willing," he asked, "tonight, to sit at this table and say, to each others' face, what your campaigns and the people in your campaigns have said about each other?"
Sen. McCain acknowledges that "this has been a tough campaign," but then he goes off on an oft-repeated and completely random tangent. First he blames Obama for causing the mess by not "keeping his word" on town hall meetings.
"Had Sen. Obama responded to my urgent requests to sit down and do town hall meetings, we could have done at least ten of them by now... I think the tone of this campaign could have been different."
Then, asked to say what he regrets, he only cited something Obama's surrogate, Rep. John Lewis, recently said. "I regret some of the negative aspects of some of these campaign. The fact is, it has taken many turns that I think have been disrespectful... Congressman Lewis, made allegations that Sen Palin and I were somehow associated with one of the worst chapters in American history."
He then accuses Obama of not repudiating the remark, which Obama did, partially.
In a heated and sometimes childish exchange over who is responsible for negative attacks, McCain claimed three times that Obama has spent an "unprecedented amount of money on negative ads" and Obama vigorously protested the comments made by McCain supporters, from "Terrorist" and "Kill him!" at the candidate's rallies.
McCain strongly defended his supporters, saying "I am proud of the people who come to our rallies ... You're always going to have some fringe people." He went on to criticize Obama for implying that "some of the most dedicated patriotic men and women," including military wives and veterans, were among those screaming such comments.
Obama, after reminding McCain that all polls show he is running the more negative campaign and that McCain is running 100 percent negative ads, puts himself above the fray.
"I think the American people are less interested in our hurt feelings than they are in the issues," he said. "The notion that because we are not doing the meetings justifies some of the ads going on... I don't mind being attacked for the next three weeks, what the American people can't afford is four more years of failed economic policies."