Mark Steyn muses about John McCain’s debate performance:
Why couldn’t he have used the s-word – “socialism”? Why couldn’t he have said that his opponent is a perfectly pleasant fellow but he has an all but blank resume so all we have to go on is his votes and his associations and both suggest a doctrinaire liberal well to the left of, say, Bill Clinton? Why couldn’t he have pointed out that Barack Obama would be the most left-wing president ever elected in the United States?
He concludes that McCain lacks the “killer instinct,” but I don’t know if that is quite it. McCain, even his most ardent supporters would admit, is an emotion-driven, value-laden politician. (He thinks in terms of honor and bipartisanship, which are not ends or political goals but an attribute and a process, respectively.) With the exception of certain national security issues like Iraq, which entirely occupied his interest, he does not methodically gather data to reach a conclusion (as Mitt Romney evidenced) or marshal the evidence to make his case (as Rudy Giuliani did). He doesn’t explain step-by-step why voters should agree with him, perhaps because he doesn’t rely on a step-by-step thought process himself or maybe because he thinks his conclusions are self-evident. As a result, he doesn’t use debates to his full advantage and he handicaps himself as a salesman for his own positions.