Well, someone certainly put a heck of a burr under John McCain’s saddle before the third presidential debate. Was it enough to get him back out of the ditch and onto the road to the White House?
- The Republican nominee for president of the United States turned in his most lively and coherent performance of the three debates,
- If John McCain was looking to ding Obama, he missed a perfect opportunity — twice. McCain brought up the criticisms that had been leveled at him and Sarah Palin by U.S. Rep. John Lewis. He noted first that Obama had yet to repudiate Lewis’ statements, but then let the conversation turn elsewhere. Not long later, McCain again brought the topic back to Lewis and again noted that Obama had not repudiated the accusations, but he got nowhere with it as he let Obama successfully divert the talk on both occasions. McCain should have said something like, “Senator Obama, you have yet to repudiate John Lewis’ unfair remarks, but I’d like to give you the opportunity to do so right now. Will you tell the American people you want no part of his accusations, right here at this debate?” Instead, McCain allowed Obama to remain comfortable and dodge the issue.
- Barack Obama was as dull as dry toast. Post-debate polls put him significantly ahead of McCain, but I think that must be at least as much because of Obama’s momentum (and the perception of inevitability his campaign excels at cultivating) as the strength of his performance at the debate.
- McCain clearly didn’t learn anything from reviewing old video of a grimacing Al Gore in Gore’s debate with George W. Bush. He was all forced half-smiles and nervous-looking blinks. McCain seemed sometimes to channel Jon Lovitz’s Michael Dukakis, who in a Saturday Night Live sketch famously exclaimed in reference to Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!” In spite of McCain’s efforts to maintain a neutral expression, he came off like an exasperated and angry porcelain doll (albeit one with a really advanced blinking function).
- Did McCain really pull out the air quotes while discussing abortion? Yes, unfortunately, he did. When Obama said he was opposed to late-term abortions but thought consideration ought to be given to the health of the mother, McCain pooh-poohed the health issue, making air quotes when saying that the meaning of “health” had been stretched too far by abortion activists. This is already the stuff of blogs and punditry, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it featured in an ad by Thursday morning.
- Although McCain did much better in this debate, he’s going to have to do much better still if he is to eke out a victory.