McCain Wins the Final Debate…But Is It Enough?
Anyone who has read my columns since 1999 knows that I am not a fan of John McCain’s politics nor do I have much confident in his abilities as a politician. From what I understand even low-level members of the McCain campaign are not happy about some of my commentary from the early days of the 2008 primary season (I’ll go into that further in the election postmortem).
The point is, despite my Republican registration, long service on various GOP committees, etc., I am not inclined to shower praise on the Arizona maverick just because of his party affiliation, even if only to contrast him with the ticket of the other party advocating a loathsome agenda.
That preamble dispensed with, I thought John McCain hands down won the first 60 minutes of the debate. In fact, like a true Saints fan still struggling with mental scars from the Mora-era Forty-Niners games, I found myself hoping that somehow McCain could then run out the clock before making any gaffes. That didn’t happen.
As the debate wore on, McCain started to stumble, mumble and bumble through a health care answer that seemed to offer nothing more than not fining business owners, stressing PE in schools and subsidized gym memberships to wrestle with America’s (and my own) weight problem. He bragged about being part of the nefarious Gang of 14 and then got the name of a Supreme Court justice wrong on the pro-life question, which he bobbled before finally tucking it in on the rebound.
McCain’s closer was not lofty (i.e. presidential) and sounded like something a war vet running for county commissioner would deliver, missing his final opportunity to really establish the differences between the two candidates in preparation for the most important job in the world.
Yet I still think McCain won, if only for the way he put Barack Obama on the defensive throughout the debate, exposed the Democratic nominee’s haughtiness and hypersensitivity to criticism and putting Obama in the uncomfortable position of having to repudiate the demagoguery of Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the massive voter fraud campaign by ACORN and retired domestic terrorist Bill Ayers.
Obama punted on the first two and classified the latter with a euphemism that would have also fit the likes of Timothy McVeigh.
McCain also got in good lines about Obama’s relentless attempts to make President George W. Bush his opponent and even worked in a mention about the Cardinals upset of the Cowboys (America’s most hated team).
Perhaps most importantly, McCain managed to limit Obama’s opportunities to employ his trademark soaring rhetoric that summons forth euphoria, tears, etc.
With the polling, money and Bush presidency advantages giving Obama the upper hand as the last three weeks of the election wind down, John McCain is not without hope or prospect of victory, though as I mentioned in my previous column, the McCain team does not have the Obama campaign where they want them…unless the Arizonan hired a bunch of masochists.
Here’s the good news: though McCain in losing in the six critical states he MUST win to hit the magic electoral vote number, the current poll margins are not insurmountable. Furthermore, they have been fairly fluid since the convention meaning that the current Obama lead in Ohio is not as hard as the Democratic nominee’s margin in traditional Blue states.
McCain has enough time to make the case why the financial crash should not be laid at his doorstep and establish the culpability of the Democrats in addition to some of Obama’s closest allies. While not going there was by far the biggest mistake of the night for McCain (the second was not touching Jeremiah Wright- is Obama lying about not knowing about the preacher’s mad rants or simply not telling the truth about being a practicing Christian?), one would think that trying to shift some of the economic stink from himself to Obama is the primary message objective if McCain is to sweep the critical six states.
While the talking heads have cast their lot to Obama for winning the debate by virtue of not falling victim to a knockout punch that would instantaneously change the election landscape, I maintain that McCain won tonight by not allowing Obama to seal the deal. Whether the last debate marks the beginning of a McCain-Palin counter-offensive or a weak holding pattern remains to be seen.