In last night's third and final debate, Barack Obama was clearly determined to kneel down on the ball on every play, running out the clock no matter how tempting the opportunity to run up the score. John McCain appeared to have just emerged from a three-day cocoon of right-wing bloggers and talk radio, pumped full of indignation over things that the average persuadable voter doesn't know, or care, about. Some specific observations:
--McCain's main strategy, as it has been for some time, was to hammer Obama on taxes. As I've pointed out before, most undecided voters do, in fact, think that Obama will raise their taxes -- and that's not deterring them at all.
--Joe the Plummer started circulating in the right-wing blogosphere two days ago, when they picked up on the phrase "spread the wealth" and saw it as proof of Obama's secret (or not-so-secret) Marxist plans. Outside of that cocoon, most Americans don't hear it that way, and in fact believe that we should be spreading the wealth around a little more. The McCain campaign is well aware of this in principle: it's why he's come out against "golden parachutes" and "greedy Wall Street bankers." It's also why he's proposed a massive, $300 billion wealth-spreading plan that would bail out millions of lower-income homeowners facing foreclosure.
--McCain not only brought up ACORN, but said, without explanation, that it is potentially "destroying the fabric of democracy." Again, for all the right-wing rage over this, I don't see much reason to think you can just toss this out there and expect people to go research it to find out what they're supposed to be outraged about.
--I realize that he meant to say "hair transplants," but in fact McCain said that under his plan people would have to pay extra for "gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies that have to do with cosmetic surgery
and transplants." What, you want a new liver, Mr. Moneybags?
--Five days after one of the VP candidates gets officially reprimanded for abuse of power and violating ethics laws in her current job, the subject was not even mentioned -- despite an entire segment devoted to assessing the VP candidates. Yeah, you could say Obama was playing it very, very cautious last night. (McCain did twice say that he is "proud of" Palin, which stuck me as sexist and condescending.)
--McCain tried to bring up the four Obama supporters wearing Tshirts calling Sarah Palin the C-word, which is another recent fave in the right-wing blogosphere, but which most viewers don't know anything about. For that matter, I doubt that most swing voters know or care about the Rep. Lewis dust-up, which has infuriated the diehards, and which McCain went on and on about.
--Did McCain really say that only "extreme environmentalists" think that nuclear power plants should be safe?
--Any remaining holdouts from the women who voted for Hillary probably came around to Obama when McCain did finger-quote-marks for the word "health" in the phrase "health of the mother" during the abortion discussion.