October 16, 2008


Intensity may help the Republican (Peter S. Canellos, October 16, 2008, Boston Globe)

The difference in the senators' temperatures - a combination of long-evident personality differences and McCain's increasing sense of urgency about Obama's growing lead in the polls - probably struck different voters in different ways.

But McCain's very intensity may have at least prompted some voters to take a second look at Obama and his policies.

"McCain came out swinging," said Wayne Lesperance, political scientist at New England College in Henniker, N.H. "Barack Obama was very cognizant of his lead and very cautious. It was reminiscent of the last round of a fight where a boxer is just trying not to be hit. If you score it on points, McCain won, but not by nearly enough to overcome Obama's lead."

...how do you not show them the film of Mr. Obama's spiritual leader, the Reverend Wright? The Barack Obama who sat quietly in the pews of that church and listened to black nationalist hate speech is the one people don't know yet.

Debate exclusive: Obama wins by a hair (ALEXANDER BURNS, 10/15/08, Politico)

Forty-nine percent of respondents said that Obama won the debate, compared to 46 who believed his opponent, Sen. John McCain, came out on top. The three-point gap separating the two candidates was equal to the poll’s margin of error.

Five percent said they were unsure which candidate had the better evening.

Perhaps the best news for McCain is the rating he received from independent voters. Among respondents not identified with either major political party, McCain was judged tonight’s winner, 51-42 percent.

Calm and Steady Wins the Race: McCain did well in the final debate, but not well enough to matter. (John Dickerson, Oct. 16, 2008, Slate)
It was a tense debate in which McCain, behind in the polls and with less than three weeks before Election Day, tried to find some way to halt Obama's momentum. He did well, but it wasn't good enough. Obama was calm, in control, and won the debate.

McCain has been portraying himself as a fighter in recent days, and he came to the debate spoiling for one. From his first mention of Joe the Plumber, he went after Obama's plan to redistribute wealth through the tax code, and pressed his charge that he would press hidden fines on small-business owners who didn't sign up for health insurance. He talked about Obama's connections to unrepentant terrorist William Ayers and ACORN. He ineffectively shorthanded his own policy ideas, but McCain was nevertheless able to fully articulate Obama's votes on abortion as a state legislator in Illinois. Even the arrows in the eagle above both candidates were pointed at Obama.
Vote for Barack Obama

McCain had some strong moments, such as when he distanced himself from President Bush and when he stood up for the majority of his supporters at his rallies. But his attacks came like out of a Gatling gun. He wasn't particularly mean, but his approach had a scattered feel to it. None of the many shots felt like they did any real damage. At times he was downright snippy, needling Obama about his lack of travel in the southern hemisphere and rolling his eyes at an Obama answer.

McCain Wins Final Debate (Stephen F. Hayes,October 16, 2008 , Weekly Standard)
McCain raised the exchange several times, and after Obama’s suggestion that only wealthy business owners would pay higher taxes McCain looked into the camera and declared: “Hey Joe, you’re rich!”

Judging from his facial expressions, Obama had been expecting that McCain might make use of the exchange from Toledo. It’s hard to know what viewers made of it, but Obama’s look of bemusement, if that’s what it was, could easily be mistaken for an arrogant smirk. Either way, it’s probably not the kind of look you want voters to see as your opponent makes a serious (and effective) point about your tax policies.

More important for McCain, all of this discussion about Joe the Plumber at the debate ensures that the original Obama-Joe exchange will be in news stories tomorrow. As McCain adviser Matt McDonald put it in the spin room, it’s a moment that will last well beyond Wednesday night.

McCain seemed sharper than he had been in the first two debates, often picking up on something Obama had said and quickly turning it against him. So when Obama noted that he’d consider further offshore oil exploration, McCain pounced. “I admire his eloquence, but you really have to listen carefully,” McCain declared. “He said he’d ‘look at’ offshore drilling. Look at.”

It wasn’t just that McCain had many good moments; Obama had several bad ones. Bob Schieffer asked the candidates which programs they would scrap given the hard economic realities facing the country. Although it’s a question that has been asked in previous debates, Obama gave the same worthless answer he has given before: “Programs that don’t work we should cut. Programs we need we should make better.” It was the debate equivalent of voting present.

Obama contradicted himself on the magnitude of the current economic problems, at one point saying that “the fundamentals of the economy were weak even before this crisis” and later downplaying the “immediate” economic issues and arguing that energy independence “is the most important issue that our economy is going to face.”

And did I hear Obama say that the right to privacy is found in the Constitution in much the same way as the First Amendment? I would guess that even most of those who buy the “privacy” argument would concede that a “right to privacy” is not in the Constitution in the same way as the Bill of Rights.

McCain puts Obama on the defensive (LIZ SIDOTI, 10/15/08, AP)
This time, John McCain kept Barack Obama on the defensive.

The feisty Republican tried hard to find a lifeline Wednesday night, challenging his Democratic rival at every turn over his truthfulness, associations and record.

By that measure, McCain won the last debate of the 2008 campaign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2008 8:49 AM
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