We learned to night, if we had any doubt, that McCain is uninterested in and unwilling to pursue the Ayers-ACORN-Left associations. When he is most effective, he is arguing about the contrast between Senator Government and himself, contrasting Hoover and Reagan, if you will. It seems that this is where his heart is and that is the subject which frankly may get played through the media filter. Much as I think the history of Obama’s affiliations are relevant and deeply important you can’t force a candidate to do something he does not want to do.
So, in addition to making his case on the economy and tracking down and gaining the endorsement of Joe the Plumber, what can McCain do? Perhaps make an issue of Obama’s credibility and extremism issue on Infants Born Alive, talk about judges and remind us it is a dangerous world. That’s the best he can likely do at this stage.
All the talk of “game-changers” has only served to make solid performances immediately meaningless. Mark Halperin just told Charlie Rose, McCain “is in a better place than he was two hours ago.” That’s the realistic best McCain could have hoped for.
Pundits from both sides are talking about the unfortunate combined effect of McCain’s physical limitations and the split-screen response shots. (Charles Krauthamer just described the funny way McCain raised his eyebrows). Since the trends in this race have been so exclusively determined by stylistic impressions, this is no surprise. It also goes to show that there is little that McCain could have done, short of morphing into a different physical presence, to effect a “game-changer” of a night.
She’s making the case for Obama, but not all that passionately or convincingly. She also virtually rejected a Cabinet post–a silly question from Wolf Blitzer. Oddly, however, one of the reasons she gives for remaining in the Senate is that Dems can’t afford to “lose” a senator, like that would happen. Who does she think Gov. Paterson would appoint?
It seems evident that the McCain campaign is going to go all Joe the Plumber, all the time. These insta-celebrities can get a very rough ride, especially if McCain’s use of him is effective. Liberal web sites will go for his jugular, and as we’ve seen with some monstrous bloggers and their willingness to say just about anything about Sarah Palin’s baby, Joe the Plumber may not have a prayer of surviving the next 20 days.
A losing night for McCain. And worse, a puzzling one. He whiffed more times than a drunk .100 hitter. Opportunities abounded to drive home simple, direct, and perfectly legitimate arguments against Obama: his support for federally-funded and late-term abortions, his mendacity about his tax and health care plans, his associations with America-hating radicals and anti-Semites. He repeatedly tiptoed up to the line, but never quite crossed it. The effect was to discredit such accusations. The back-and-forth about Ayers ended up absolving Obama far more than it incriminated him. If you’re going to bring up Ayers, you better be ready to say something poignant and damaging. Instead, McCain served up Obama a stellar opportunity to make himself look perfectly innocent. And that is exactly what Obama did.
McCain seems temperamentally incapable of hitting Obama hard, either on policy subjects or on personal and political matters, or delivering a coup de grace when the moment is staring him in the face. He jabs reluctantly and can’t get into the role of holding his opponent’s feet to the fire; he seems to fear all the bad things the New York Times will say the next day. McCain was at his most passionate when articulating how it had hurt him when Rep. Lewis compared him to a segregationist politician. That was a good thing to do, but it was not, and will never be, enough.
The CBS snap poll gives it to Obama by a huge margin — 53-22. (The others say it’s a tie.) Five hundred seventeen respondents.
… the Phillies are about to go to the World Series. That makes it a tough night for Mets fans, though images such as this make the bitter pill easier to swallow.
From Mark Halperin: “McCain has best debate yet in final face-off.” He gives McCain an A- and Obama a B+. Well, McCain may have been better than in the past but I’m not sure why the MSM has a more charitable view than they could frankly “get away” with. Bizarre.
There’s a bit of a consensus forming at CNN that McCain was strong and Obama at his worst.
McCain rambled a bit. Didn’t do as well as he did in the give and take. Obama was also less focused than usual. It’s almost as if they didn’t know they were going to have to give closing statements. Obama asked for votes, McCain didn’t; too bad. McCain looked more engaged at the end and complimented Obama, which we didn’t hear previously. All in all, a good showing for McCain, but maybe not enough to turn things around.
McCain says we “need a new direction” and points to his record of reform. He comes back to “trust” — not something he really touched on before. But after mentioning “trust” he really doesn’t explain why he is trustworthy and Obama is not.
Obama is practically floating on air. For once invoking the Great Depression is not an exaggeration. He comes back to “fundamental change.” He is soothing, calm and utterly at ease. He suspects he has this in the bag. He knows that he gave voters no reason to think he’d be a risky, dangerous leap into the abyss.
Obama’s closing statement sounded like an inauguration speech.
A closing statement needs to be crisp and clear. McCain is stumbling over his words, rambling, and about to run out of time.
During the earlier debates, I thought Obama was skillful, but sometimes lost. When he didn’t know a topic, he just punted (remember his rambling answer on Russia during the last debate). But tonight he seems to be at his logical, calm, rhetorical best. What strikes me is how different he is from candidate Bill Clinton in 1992. Clinton was a folksy, at ease, and hugely knowledgeable debater. But every statement from Clinton always seemed wrapped in a veneer of insincerity. Even when he knew a topic cold, you couldn’t really be persuaded that he believed what he was saying. His criticism of George H.W. Bush always had an edge. Obama is very different. Sometimes he seems out of his depth. He doesn’t show his cards. Listening to him, I’m left wondering what he would actually do as president since he relies on a lot of uncontroversial, good government bromides. But he seems more serious, less angry, and more trustworthy than Clinton. In these times, that makes him a better debater.
Obama is delighted to get into a detailed policy discussion about education. He is practically dancing in his seat, knowing that he survived with hardly a scratch.
Jen, you’re missing the weasel words “woman’s health.” This can be so broadly interpreted as to include almost anything. At Saddleback, he said that he’d restrict late term abortions to those for whom pregnancy was a threat to their physical health. He didn’t go that far this time.
Excuse me for interrupting this contest of morally absolute rhetoric, but what power of Congress grants it the authority to legislate on third trimester abortions?
McCain talks about school choice, mainly charter schools. But he doesn’t take on the unions, which is at the root of much of what has gone wrong with schools over the last 40 years. His answer isn’t different enough from Obama’s to make this a winning issue.
Obama says we need both more money and more reform. He makes it sound like this is something new and daring, but of course the head of the NEA and the AFT would both say the same thing. His only new idea is to give a $4000 credit for each student who performs a “public service.”