Senator John McCain had to clearly win Tuesday’s debate in order to change the momentum of the presidential campaign. Senator Barack Obama had to look presidential and trustworthy in order to maintain his momentum. In the end, Senator Obama did what he had to do to reassure most voters.
“I think everybody knows we are in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” Obama zinged, “ and I believe this is a final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years, promoted by President Bush and supported by Senator McCain.” Obama seemed confident, presidential and smart throughout the debate.
Senator John McCain came out on the offensive. “Senator Obama, it’s good to be with you at a town hall meeting,” he sarcastically observed. His proposal for weekly town hall meetings had been turned down by the Obama team early on in the campaign.
McCain seemed, at times, to be condescending and arrogant. His body language indicated he did not believe Senator Obama deserved to be on the same stage with him. McCain often impatiently paced while Obama spoke. And, as in the first debate, McCain did not look at his opponent very much, especially when he was attacking him. “Senator Obama was the second highest recipient of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac money in history,” he charged while looking directly at the audience.
Obama kept his eye on McCain most of the time and he appeared to be engaged in his opponent’s every word. “I never promoted Fannie Mae,” Obama briskly retorted, “In fact, Senator McCain’s campaign chairman’s firm was a lobbyist on behalf of Fannie Mae, not me.”
The economic crisis facing this nation took up most of the debate. There were dueling health plans, tax plans and economic stimulus packages. Of note, McCain mentioned Senator Joe Lieberman’s name but failed to mention his running mate. For her part, Governor Sarah Palin has become the campaign mascot, a pit bull with lipstick. This past week she has aggressively attacked Obama for his relationship with radical anti-war terrorist William Ayers. But, interestingly, Bill Ayers’ name did not come up in this debate. Maybe it’s not important after all (except to Sean Hannity).
Senator McCain overused the term “my friends;" after a while it sounded disingenuous. For instance, “my friends, I know you grow a little weary with this back and forth.” Or, in an historical reference, “my friends, the last president to raise taxes during tough economic times was Herbert Hoover.” That’s the same Herbert Hoover who, just before the Great Depression, once said, “no one can rightly deny the fundamental correctness of our economic system.” Does that sound familiar?
Senator McCain’s debate strategy came down to a couple basic ideas. “We’ve got to give some trust and confidence back to America, I know how to get America working again my friends.” And, of course, “I have a clear record of bipartisanship my friends.”
Obama’s demeanor during the debate was calm, smart and warmer than it had been in previous appearances. He appeared strong but never in an emotional way. McCain jabbed and parried. He often resorted to snarky comments that play well with the Republican base. “You know who voted for it,” McCain scorned about an energy bill recently before Congress, “That one.”
There is only one more debate and less than a month remaining before the presidential election. The economy is not a good issue for McCain and Republicans. The Iraq war and foreign policy are not good issues for McCain. Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright are a useless diversion for the majority of Americans.
McCain has come back from near death experiences before. But unless there is a political earthquake in the next couple of weeks, “That one” will become Mr. President!
And Republicans will begin preparing Sarah Palin for her 2012 presidential run.