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Your guide to the last-minute attacks

By Angie Drobnic Holan
Published on Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 at 5:26 p.m.

SUMMARY: In their final days on the trail, the candidates repeat their favorite points. The Truth-O-Meter separates fact from fiction.

If the '08 campaign were a Las Vegas lounge act, the candidates would be belting out their greatest hits medleys right about now.

With time growing short before voters go to the polls, the candidates are hitting their best talking points to rally supporters and make a last-ditch case to the few undecideds out there.

Whether you're grooving to the oldies or just checking in, we're looking at the latest from the trail and seeing what our Truth-O-Meter says about the facts.

Life is a Highway

Sen. Barack Obama's final ad shows a voter driving in a car. George W. Bush appears in the rearview mirror, while a narrator tells you Sen. John McCain would continue Bush's policies.

McCain would "provide no tax breaks to 101-million Americans," the ad says.

This is very likely true. McCain plans to keep the Bush tax cuts in place, and offers additional tax exemptions for children and dependents. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that between 66- and 69-million tax filers won't see a reduction in taxes under the McCain plan. When you factor in family members, that likely comes to just over 100-million people. We looked into this matter when Sen. Joe Biden said McCain would not give tax relief to 100-million families, and rated it Half True . We dinged Biden for saying it was 100-million families , but 101-million Americans is correct.

The ad then says that McCain wants to "keep tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas." The Truth-O-Meter found this claim Barely True . McCain supports existing tax law, which lets American companies defer taxes on overseas profits in some cases. You can argue that's an incentive to companies to ship jobs overseas, but it also allows them to compete more effectively with foreign companies.

Next up: McCain "wants $4-billion dollars in new tax breaks for big oil." The Obama campaign loves to say this, but we say it's Barely True , because the ad fails to mention that the tax cut is part of McCain's overall plan to reduce corporate taxes. McCain is not singling out oil companies for tax breaks.

Finally, the ad slams McCain on health care, saying he "would tax your health care benefits for the first time ever." McCain does have a plan to tax employer-provided health care benefits, but he offers a $2,500 tax credit to offset that loss. So the ad only tells half the story. We looked at a similar one-sided claim Obama made about McCain's health plan and found it Barely True . McCain's goal is to increase competition by taking away the tax incentive that's built in for employer-provided health insurance, not to increase taxes on health benefits.

"Look behind you. We can’t afford more of the same," the narrator in the Obama ad concludes. ( View the ad here .)

The Obama campaign announced on the Friday before Election Day that they would be buying time in Georgia and North Dakota to show the "Rearview" ad.

'Cause He's the Tax Man

McCain, meanwhile, has fought back with his own attacks on Obama. We looked at his stump speech in Hanovertown, Ohio, on Oct. 31, 2008, and found plenty of familiar lines.

"Now, my friends, Senator Obama is running to be redistributionist-in-chief," McCain said. "I'm running to be commander-in-chief. Senator Obama is running to spread the wealth, to take the money from one group of Americans and give it to another. I'm running to create more wealth."

McCain mentioned the different numbers Obama has used when talking about his tax plan: "First he said people making less than $250,000 would benefit. Then this weekend he announced in an ad, if you're a family making less than $200,000 you'll benefit." We did find that Obama uses different numbers when talking about his taxes, so we rated that part of McCain's statement Mostly True and explained the significance of the different numbers.

McCain also pointed out that Obama will give tax cuts to people who don't owe taxes now. "Forty percent don't pay any income taxes. So what do you do? You take money from one group and you give it to another," McCain said. "The liberal left has tried it before. It will not work in America."

McCain is correct about the 40 percent number — the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that 38 percent of people who could potentially owe taxes will have zero or negative individual income tax liability in 2009.

We also rated a previous statement of McCain's that Obama's tax credits were welfare; we found that to be False .

McCain also attacked Obama's past votes on taxes, saying, "Sen. Obama voted 94 times for tax increases or against tax cuts. It won't be long before Sen. Obama is right back to his vote that taxes Americans making just $42,000 a year. We can't let that happen, my friends."

We found the 94 times claim to cherry-pick votes that didn't actually raise or reduce taxes. We rated it False . Similarly, the vote to raise taxes on people making $42,000 was actually a vote for a budget resolution that set broad revenue goals. No one thought it would result in increased tax bills. We rated that one Barely True .

 

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Sources:

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Researchers: Angie Drobnic Holan

Names in this article: John McCain, Barack Obama

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