McCain had the best line in the debate:
I am not President Bush, if you wanted to run against George Bush you should have done so four years ago.
I am surprised that he did not go for a further blow by pointing out Obama was not a member of Congress if he had wanted to run – echoing Hillary Clinton’s remark that all Obama did in 2004 was give a good speech. Instead we heard a lot about Joe the plumber and what the polices of the two contenders would mean for him on health care and tax.
Obama showed himself unflappable, not allowing himself to go off message or make a gaffe. McCain went for it more, and this was his best performance. However he allowed his temper to show, with a thin skin in the negative aspects of the campaign and his incessant blinking when he was giving a rehearsed debating point direct to camera looked like it was not natural to him. Obama is more able when doing to camera pieces. In fact some remark he is too calm, almost cool. An ability to empathise while remaining the ice man.
Yet fears of recession – with fears of a slow down in China – wiped out the recent gains in the stock market. That will probably have more of a bearing on the election than the debate tonight. McCain made the distinction between himself and Obama. McCain needed a clear plan for the economy when the crisis happened – however over the past three weeks he has failed to deliver. He needed not only to stand apart from Bush but be the man with a plan.
What was a telling difference between Obama and McCain was Obama saying that McCain would have the failed economic policies of the last eight years while he represents change prioritizing on what needs to work, while McCain saying that he is no George Bush but he has a longer record of bi partisan approach for change and knows how to do it- and would freeze all spending then line by line go through government spending.
Which message voters responds to will decide the vote. But if people draw distinctions between McCain and Bush expect him to have a bounce back in the polls. If McCain can deliver a critique on economic policy and how he can change it for the middle class he could regain the initiative
The thing is Obama looks like the real thing when it comes to change. Tonight McCain played on the big government liberal spender image of Democrats, and that Obama did not have a record to back up the leadership qualities for the Presidency – including taking on your party, and leading the charge for change.
The last two debates Obama has won; narrowly in the first, clearly in the second. This last one I would say a tie. McCain came out swinging with his heart on his sleeve. He has given a good reason for the Republican base to come out and vote for him. Obama responded clearly and thoughtfully, taking odds with McCain rejecting vocuhers in education and stating that a tax credit for purchasing health care would collapse health care provision.