Yeah, I watched it. The “town hall” debate. Overall, it verged on boring, but that may have been because I — like much of the rest of the country, to judge from the media and the blogs going in — expected a slug-fest. McCain promised his supporters that tonight he’d take the gloves off. He was going to pound Obama into the ground.
The nearest he came to a hit, as far as I could see, was when he referred to Obama as “that one.” It was a cheap shot, arguably verging on racism, and probably something McCain will come to regret. Seriously.
Obama was a bit more aggressive this time, and he had to be, with a GOP-friendly moderator. He got away with some quick-shuffles and overtime, but only enough to level the field. He stayed on an even keel, while McCain was bobbing up and down.
So yes, I say Obama won the debate. I did not watch and have not yet checked on any of the paid pundits or the focus groups, but I can’t believe they’ll rate it much differently. The McCain spinners will, of course, have their own take, just as the Obama spinners will. But on such middle ground as there is I expect the verdict will be that Obama won by a small but clear margin.
Unfortunately for McCain, even a small loss here translates into a big loss in votes. In fact, even a small win for McCain wouldn’t have done much; he needed that KO he promised his core group.
One other possibility occurs to me. The McCain people — or the GOP itself — may already have decided that it’s a lost cause, and that the only rational strategy now is to cut losses. That would mean telling McCain to scale back, to be his old cute and respectable self, to stay on the reservation, and to figure out what he’s going to do next year when Obama takes the White House. Because if McCain (and whatsername) continue slinging shit, they’ll only smear rest of the Republican Party.
[Quick add which got lost in the upload: Did either candidate mention his VP? I don’t remember hearing “Palin” or “Biden” all night. Just wondering.]