All This Is That National Affairs Editor
The two candidates debated last night in Nashville, and predictably clashed on the economy, taxes, the economic bailout, and the wars in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. We heard very little we hadn't heard before.
John McCain needed a bump from this debate to raise his standings and give him a shot in what appears to be an electoral college lock by Obama. He probably will not get that bump. He did however, mostly redeem himself from his earlier debate performance with a relaxed, folksy performance, "my friends." He was short on substance and never seriously went on the attack. Not completely unexpectedly, there were a couple of strange moments: when answering Tom Brokaw's question about who he would appoint Treasury Secretary, he answered "Not you Tom!" and at one point he vaguely gestured toward Barack Obama and called him "that one." McCain did not bring up any of the mud-slinging "character" issues his partner in crime, Sarah Palin has been hammering away at in rallies recently.
For his part, Obama provided more specifics, and consistently linked McCain with George W. Bush. In a dust-up on foreign policy, Obama hammered away at McCain's steadiness. "This is a guy who sang bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, who called for the annihilation of North Korea—that I don't think is an example of speaking softly." Obama, however, once again appeared stiff and detached. The man just doesn't seem to be able to loosen up on stage, and while he is a great orator, his skills in retail politics are lacking. He never quite connects in these debates the way he seems to when he is alone in the spotlight.
If the debate had a winner, it may have been John McCain. While Obama once again appeared Presidential, McCain was able to connect with the audience in a more folksy way, reminiscent of the old John McCain that people loved. Unfortunately for John McCain, the old John McCain rarely makes an appearance these days, ceding stage time to the George Bush-lapdog McCain.