Not surprisingly, no one was waiting for Wurzelbacher's opinion when it came to deciding who won the debate -- Barack Obama ran away with it. CBS News polled it as a complete rout -- 53%-22%. CNN polled it a bit closer, 58%-31% -- still a slaughter. CNN's polling shows Obama taking the lead in every question but two -- and those two were negatives.
...Eighty percent of debate watchers polled said McCain spent more time attacking his opponent, with seven percent saying Obama was more on the attack. Fifty-four percent said McCain seemed more like a typical politician during the debate, with 35 percent saying Obama acted more like a typical politician.
It may be that McCain's negativity going into this was really what killed him. "This was Sen. John McCain's best debate yet," wrote Taegan Goddard. "He scored many points and effectively distanced himself from President Bush with the comment, 'I am not president Bush. If you want to run against president Bush, you should have done that four years ago.' It was probably the only memorable soundbite from any of the debates." Yet his best wasn't anywhere good enough.
Obama's been playing rope-a-dope with John McCain, letting him do all the work in debates and just playing defense. McCain has been the earnest one, the passionate one, and against that background of negativity, that earnestness and passion comes off as anger. It doesn't help any that McCain actually got angry in the debates. And McCain was already out of material going into this last one, throwing out arguments that Obama had already answered in previous debates. Apparently having learned absolutely nothing from his previous attempts to smear Obama onstage, McCain tried the exact same punches in exactly the same way. Obama dealt with them as easily as he had all the other times.
"In contrast, McCain tried too hard to land a knockout punch," Goddard said. Agreed. But it's understandable. The last debate may have represented the last chance. And McCain pretty much blew it by trying to please his base. Widely seen as the most negative of the two, he tried to bring up William Ayers and ACORN. But those arguments only work when there's no one there to set the record straight. In the end, it didn't really go anywhere. I'm sure McCain supporters were cheering at home, but his supporters aren't who he should've been aiming for -- they're already going to vote for him.
McCain also lost a lot of points on style. In trying to play both sides of the abortion issue, he probably wound up making no one happy. "We have to change the culture of America. Those of us who are proudly pro-life understand that," McCain said. "And it's got to be courage and compassion that we show to a young woman who's facing this terribly difficult decision." This represents a bit of doublespeak on McCain's part, since those who are "proudly pro-life" don't give a damn about the woman's decision -- difficult or not. They don't want the woman to have that decision at all; they want the government to make that decision for her.
In the same section, McCain made a tremendous mistake in talking about what the right has named "partial birth abortion" -- a PR term for a procedure called "intact dilation and extraction." He suggested that the health of the mother was something only pro-choice nuts are concerned about.
"That's the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, 'health.'" McCain said, actually making quotation marks in the air with his fingers. He then went on to talk about his adopted daughter, as if adoption were the answer to women's health concerns. I could almost swear I heard a cry of "what?!?" rise up from my neighborhood.
That wasn't the only time McCain's Manson Family Values were on display. In discussing the Colombian Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), Obama brought up Colombia's terrible workers' rights record. "The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions," Obama said.
McCain actually rolled his eyes at this, apparently exasperated that young chucklenuts here would let a little thing like government-supported murder stand in the way of "free trade." Anyone who takes this attitude toward Colombia, while crying crocodile tears over the things Saddam Hussein did in Iraq, is inconsistent at best and hypocritical in truth.
Whatever the hell it was John McCain needed to do last night wasn't done. He huffed and puffed like a cranky old steam engine, he tried tired old attacks that didn't work the first time, he straddle issues and avoided others. Meanwhile, Obama did what he needed to do, which was just answer the questions. McCain's the one everyone talks about after these things -- and that's the way Obama likes it. Some lefties have been frustrated with Obama's debate performances, but they need to remember that Barack Obama doesn't need to convince them. It's McCain who's been the sort of debater they've been calling for and that didn't work out so well, did it?
Maybe Joe the Plumber made up his mind last night. From what I've seen, he probably made up his mind a long time ago. But, unless something crazy and unforeseen happens, the President of Joe the Plumber is going to be Barack Obama.
A grand slam. The trifecta. A hat trick. Pick your favorite sports metaphor, but Obama takes the debates 3-zip.