After two desultory debate performances, John McCain finally came out strong last night. I'm no cheerleader (as my past posts will prove--I've seen Obama as the clear winner of the first two debates) and it may be too little too late, but for the first time in the campaign, I was able to watch McCain for more than a few minutes without wincing. He even got a couple of fist-pumps out of me. If nothing else, I'd love to see the "Senator Government" slip of the tongue stick.
Of course, the pundits didn't know quite what to make of it all. I'm discovering more and more how useless the immediate post-debate analysis is. The analysts are all afraid of looking silly a day or two later when the debate narrative finally gets fixed in the public consciousness, and history shows that it doesn't always go as it seemed to the journalists. So what happens is that each analyst throws out careful little trial balloons and then they all watch each other to see if they can come to a consensus. I happened to be watching ABC News last night (since I wanted to see the debate in HD, but CNN's ridiculous little "Ohio Undecided Voter" running dial is driving me nuts; undecided female voters in Ohio are officially the stupidest species on the planet). At the end of the debate, former Clinton flack George Stephanopoulos opined that McCain had done unusually well. After about five minutes of other analysts like George Will and Donna Brazille pouring water on the fire, they went back to George, who now was saying that McCain didn't accomplish what needed to be done. Stephanopoulos basically switched positions on the debate within a five minute period.
So, all of that said, I think McCain won handily last night. Here would be my unsolicited advice for the remainder of the campaign. First, I would continue with the "I'm not George W. Bush" line of argument. It was very effective, and he should've been using it earlier. If I were advising him, here's exactly what I'd have him saying: "If Senator Obama wanted to run against George W. Bush, he should've run four years ago. Back when Senator Obama was still working with Bill Ayers, I actually ran against George W. Bush for president. I knew he didn't have all the answers. That's why I opposed him. I didn't think he had the answers then, and I don't think he has the answers now. Let's make one thing clear here: Senator Obama talks a good game, but when the chips were on the table, I'm the one who stepped up and ran against President Bush."
I would also keep going on Obama's tax-raising plan. He lets Obama squirm out of this too easily. I would have McCain say, "Senator Obama says he's not going to raise your taxes--he's only going to raise taxes on your employer. If you work for a corporation or a company that has more than three or four people working for it--which is all it takes to be a $250,000 business--Senator Obama is going to raise taxes on your business. He's been telling us that over and over again. He told Joe the Plumber that. So when he does that, do you think your job is going to be more secure, or less secure? When Senator Obama begins cutting into the profits of your employer, how do you think they're going to make up the loss? Does that put you in a better situation at work, or a worse one? This is common sense, folks. The good news is, Senator Obama might not raise most of your personal income taxes. The bad news is, when he's done with your workplace, you might not have any income. I don't think we should raise taxes on anyone. That's the difference between us."
I was glad to finally see McCain get in some shots on abortion, and Torie Clarke was dead wrong on ABC when she said this was a waste of time because it "only appeals to the base." Generally the country is pro-choice in the first trimester, when the health or life of the mother is at risk. However, once you get past the first trimester, American opinion becomes overwhelmingly, decidedly anti-abortion. McCain didn't pin Obama down on this nearly as hard as he needs to--though it was at least a good start after months of silence. Obama is for infanticide, plain and simple. As Robert George of Princeton shows, Obama is not merely pro-"choice," he is pro-abortion (despite his empty denials), and the more the better. His position is wildly outside of the American mainstream (as McCain pointed out), and he needs to keep hitting the fact that Obama is in the infanticide lobby's pocket. Late-term abortion is a winning issue for Republicans, and it's time they wised up to this.