John McCain clashed with Democratic front-runner Barack Obama in a last-chance presidential debate today, hoping to launch a dramatic comeback just 19 days from election day.
The White House rivals strode on stage to shake hands, before stationing themselves opposite one another on a table, with CBS news anchor and moderator Bob Schieffer between them.
The debate was almost certainly the last time the two rivals would meet face-to-face before election day on November 4.
Republican McCain, down a whopping 14 points in one new poll as the United States weathers its worst financial crisis in decades, talked tough heading into the final face-off.
He took the first question, detailing his economic rescue plans, vowing to put "a floor" under the decline in home ownership amid the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
At the weekend, McCain promised supporters he would "whip" his Democratic opponent's "you know what" during the debate, after he was judged the loser in the first two debates in snap polls by television networks.
The Arizona senator earlier Tuesday vowed to land a blow against Obama's character, by bringing up the Democrat's past links to 1960s radical turned Chicago education professor William Ayers.
"It's not that I give a damn about some old washed-up terrorist and his terrorist wife," McCain, 72, told KMOX radio in Saint Louis, Missouri.
"What I care about and what the American people care about is whether he (Obama) is being truthful with the American people.