First impressions before reading anyone else’s thoughts…
McCain had an opportunity to do something tonight and he didn’t. He seemed too focused on hitting his talking points (how many ear-marks did Obama have again?) and not on speaking to his vision of America and where it should be heading.
I disagree with Obama on just about everything, but he tried very hard to make the point that he was for more regulation of the American economy (and that’s a good thing?). McCain didn’t do enough to make the counter point, to be against regulation and to highlight how the current problem isn’t a failure of regulation, but rather a problem caused by government interference in the markets. The government caused this mortgage problem by forcing the banks to make bad loans and then surreptitiously subsidizing them through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is not a market failure, but a government failure.
McCain should have made that point because it very nicely dovetailed with his talking points about government waste and government corruption coming from too much government spending (and all the money flowing from Fannie and Freddie to Obama and his buddies). But he didn’t and that was a missed opportunity.
Obama didn’t wow me. His much vaunted charisma was not on display as far as I could tell and between the two of them I think they put on the most painfully boring presidential debate ever. Which is saying something (Bush/Dukakis anyone?).
Scoring points in the debates will be important for McCain if he wants to win this election and he didn’t score any on Friday. Was he playing it safe because he thinks he has more to lose than Obama? Perhaps the closeness of the polls is messing with the McCain campaign and convincing them the election is theirs to lose.
I don’t think that’s the case, I think McCain needs to hammer Obama to win, to overcome the intensity gap between his followers and the Chosen One’s, and I don’t think giving milquetoast performances in the debates is the way to do that.