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Presidental Debate Liveblogging

I was mulling over the debate during my commute home from work, and started to marvel over just how bad things are for John McCain tonight. Just about every major factor is working against him:

  • The main topic of the debate, health care, is the Republicans' #2 worst issue.
  • The huge drop in the stock market today ensures that the Republican's #1 worst issue, the economy, is certain to get a lot of air time too.
  • McCain is totally in a box on this Ayers thing. After the second Presidential Debate, Team Obama was practically goading him into bringing it up tonight, saying "we've been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days, that he wasn't willing to say it to my face. But I guess we've got one last debate." McCain responded by saying that he most certainly would. But you know Obama has a response all queued up and ready to roll. And the brunt of McCain's charges regarding Ayers is that Obama "hasn't been forthcoming about the relationship"--will he still be able to say that after Obama addresses the issue on live TV in McCain company? Of course, if McCain doesn't mentioned Ayers, Team Obama can double-down: they can again insinuate that he's a coward and add that he broke his word to boot.
  • Worst of all, all of this must frustrate McCain terribly--and that's likely to be evident. The format of the debate has the two sitting right next to each other at a table, so any signs of hostility from McCain (not making eye contact), are likely to be amplified, as most camera shots will show the men side-by-side and in extremely close proximity.
The one upside to the debate for McCain is that it gives him one last chance to change the dynamics of the race. Alas, even that is a poisoned pill: McCain has "shaken up the race" so many times now (picking Palin, his campaign suspension, etc.) that attempting to do so again tonight will only feed into the narrative that he's "erratic". But playing it safe is also a losing proposition for him, given the current polls.

It's damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't for John McCain tonight. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it.

5:53: Pre-debate prediction: knowing that McCain has no choice but to attack, Obama will be all smiles as he comes out, and will be overtly (perhaps even overly) collegial toward his opponent. Then, in his first few statements, he will refer to McCain as a friend and/or make some comment about how this will be an issue-oriented debate. It's a twofer when McCain then goes negative, because he can then (a) make the "gee whiz my buddy just stabbed me in the back" face and (b) retaliate with negativity, arguing that "he started it."

6:00: Moderator: "By now we've heard all the talking points ..." Ha! Nice try, but get ready hear them again.

6:01: McCain turns the conventional wisdom on it's head, starting every speech with not a joke but a shout-out to someone in the hospital. MAVRICKY!

6:03: McCain is trying so hard to maintain eye-contact that he looks like a besotted kid starting at a love interest sitting near him in the library.

6:05: Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, and now Joe the Plumber is mixed up in the race? Can we get a moratorium of Joes around here? Update: Oh my God, how could I forget Joe Sixpack?

6:08: McCain is not stringing arguments together very deftly tonight. Also: helllllllo populism.

6:10: I gotta hand it to McCain, he's got Obama playing defense early.

6:11: These are good questions, for a change.

6:12: This has pretty much just become a race to see who can be first to work their talking points into this "no talking points" debate. Obama takes an early lead, checking "not one dime" and "go through the budget line-by-line" off his master list.

6:16: "Overhead projector" is the new "Spain".

6:17: McCain is talking about using both a hatchet and a scalpel. This debate on health care is terrifying.

6:20: Why does Obama keep giving McCain "enormous credit" for his "opposition" on torture?

6:23: McCain ends a response to a question about negative campaigning by calling Obama a liar.

6:28: I don't know if I can stand 4 years of Obama's "aaaaaaaaand".

6:31: This response by McCain on his supporters is the most unfocused I've seen. He supports everyone who attends his rallies and recognizes that some of them and hateful nutjobs? Also: every time McCain interrupts Obama he loses1000 voters at least.

6:34: Ayers! ACORN! McCain just blew his scandal load in one heaving spurt. He's gonna be flaccid from here on out.

6:38: Hahaha. While Obama is answering this VP question I bet McCain is all, like, "OhShitOhShitOhShit ..."

6:40: At what point did "autism" become the center square on the Political Bingo card?

6:43: Did McCain just advocate "nuclear pants"? I'm reconsidering my vote.

6:47: Obama's looking a little ragged, can't seem to decide is he should be talking to the moderator or the camera.

6:48: Wait, McCain is a Free Traitor? Re-reconsidering my vote.

6:50: Obama just promised to "enforce unfair trade agreements." I'm fully in the swing vote camp, now.

6:52: Are these guys fully incoherent now, or have I just stopped paying close attention?

6:53: Shorter McCain: "I like ice cream, so there's really no doubt that Senator Obama will raise taxes."

6:58: Joe the Plumber has just rocketed in the ranks of C-list celebrities. He will be all over the media tomorrow.

7:04: Wait, Obama is wearing a red tie and McCain is wearing blue? Maybe a Freaky Friday body switch prior to the debate?

7:10: Obama appears to have come armed with reformulated responses on an astonishingly wide range of topics.

7:12: And "eloquence" is the new "articulate."

7:13: Science question! Mention the overhead projector, Obama!

7:14: McCain: Education is the civil rights issue of the 21 century. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THOSE GAYS!!

7:17: Wow, agreement on charter schools. That's pretty great.

7:20: Obama thinks children are our future. Apparently he has found the greatest love of all.

7:22: Apparently, by virtue of having an autistic son, I and my wife both get 500 votes a piece this election.

7:24: But will McCain mention he's a POW in his closing statement as he did in the first two debates? Update: No! C-C-C-Combobreaker!

7:27: Obama's closing statement: Say no to Bush and yes to free ponies!

I could provide some post-debate analysis, but it would be like summarizing a game of Pong. Here, just watch this 30-second video half a dozen times.

Posted on October 15, 2008 to Politics


Joe the plumber...I didn't think we would hear about him so early.

Posted by: Duane on October 15, 2008 6:10 PM

Is Joe the Plumber the same guy as Joe SixPack?

Posted by: theguth on October 15, 2008 6:12 PM

Don't forget Joe Sixpack.

Posted by: Mops on October 15, 2008 6:12 PM

Profligrate ways? wtf professor obama?

Posted by: Duane on October 15, 2008 6:19 PM

"Let's do what they did after the depression."

Hey, I thought the economy was strong.

Uh, does he seem a little crazy and disorganized, here? "I know how to save billions in defense spending." Yeah, maybe you should have already been sharing that information before now, bub?

"Sweetheart deal for an airline." Goodbye, Washington vote!

Posted by: akeeyu on October 15, 2008 6:20 PM

Is his whole strategy to look like a cranky old jerk? Because if he is, he is full of win.

Posted by: akeeyu on October 15, 2008 6:22 PM

Apparently, I am hurt and angry.

Posted by: Suze on October 15, 2008 6:22 PM

McCain needs to tone down the sarcasm a bit. He's looking like a whiny little girl...

Posted by: tara on October 15, 2008 6:24 PM

Someone is a bit cranky tonight...

Posted by: trickyticky on October 15, 2008 6:26 PM

Great question on negative ads!

Posted by: JR on October 15, 2008 6:26 PM

McCain got his feelings hurt.

Posted by: Steve on October 15, 2008 6:27 PM

repudiate is a big word

Posted by: Anonymous on October 15, 2008 6:28 PM

so McCain thinks ads that disagree with his policies are the same kind of negative as calling Obama a terrorist?

Posted by: sue on October 15, 2008 6:32 PM

Oh God, we get three weeks of Joe the Fucking Plumber.

Posted by: JR on October 15, 2008 6:33 PM

McCain might explode...

Posted by: tara on October 15, 2008 6:34 PM

I have to say, I like Obama more than I like McCain.

Posted by: Yoshi on October 15, 2008 6:40 PM

I think Obama needs to talk a little about Keating and the funding the Contras.

Posted by: Anonymous on October 15, 2008 6:40 PM

So which is it, Mccain doesn't care about a washed up terrorist, or we have to get all the details about obama and ayers???

Posted by: mollster on October 15, 2008 6:42 PM

aww, yeah; LOVE the running mate question!

Posted by: Yoshi on October 15, 2008 6:42 PM

@ 6:31 – So the person that said Obama "pals around with terrorists" was a fringe element? Can we try to keep the Alaskans off the stage?

Posted by: Jessie on October 15, 2008 6:42 PM


Posted by: Anonymous on October 15, 2008 6:44 PM

wow, Obama is dropping more names than an Acorn registrar!

Posted by: Duane on October 15, 2008 6:45 PM

first of all, Sarah Palin is no role model for this woman...and second of all, what has Sarah Palin done for special needs kids besides having one?

Posted by: sue on October 15, 2008 6:46 PM

Ahh, ok; Palin's a role model for all women. I'm glad McCain corrected my mistaken opinion on that.

Posted by: Yoshi on October 15, 2008 6:46 PM

And she understands that unwed teen pregnancy is on the rise, and that unethical interference in state trooper forces by governors is on the rise...

Posted by: mollster on October 15, 2008 6:47 PM

Interrupting the moderator!

Posted by: Jessie on October 15, 2008 6:47 PM

Is 'refutiate' even a word?

Posted by: bizzyburns on October 15, 2008 6:50 PM

LOL, McCain is all Noooo global warming!!! Is CLIMATE CHANGE!!!!!

Posted by: Yoshi on October 15, 2008 6:50 PM

Someone tell McCain there's only 1-year's worth of oil off shore and we would only get that in drips and drabs over many years.

Posted by: Yoshi on October 15, 2008 6:53 PM

If McCain rolls his eyes one more time I'll...well, I don 't know what I'll do but it's getting pretty damn annoying.

Posted by: Steve on October 15, 2008 6:54 PM

I support climate control in all American cars.

Posted by: mike on October 15, 2008 6:54 PM

These guys are losing me. If I start making 250k, someone, please take some of it for the poor. I'll spend it all on caviar and champagne!

Posted by: Jessie on October 15, 2008 7:01 PM

Joe Plumber! I missed you.
And My Friend within seconds! I'm already drunk, though.

Posted by: Yoshi on October 15, 2008 7:02 PM

So far they've either promised bailouts for, automakers, homeowners, the middle class, polar bears, Joe the Plumber and hockey moms.

I think McCain just promised to give me a ride to my dr's appointment. Then later Obama's and his friend Hugo Chavez are gonna come help me move.

Posted by: Duane on October 15, 2008 7:04 PM

Roe v Wade!! :o I'm impressed with tonight's questions.

Posted by: Yoshi on October 15, 2008 7:09 PM

Obama is So Much Better than moldypants McCain. Spot on with abortion and sex education.

Posted by: Yoshi on October 15, 2008 7:17 PM

"I vote present because I was willing to make a stand" What does that even mean?

Posted by: Duane on October 15, 2008 7:19 PM

HEaven forbid we should have qualified teachers.

Posted by: Andrea on October 15, 2008 7:21 PM

They do realize that Joe the plumber only gets one vote, right? This isn't the recent Kevin Costner film Swing Vote!

Posted by: Jessie on October 15, 2008 7:23 PM

Does Sarah Palin have an autistic child too? Where have I been?

Posted by: Andrea again on October 15, 2008 7:26 PM

aaaaccckkkk!!! sarah palin's son isn't autistic, is he? he's got down syndrome! mccain keeps using autism like it is interchangable and it isnt!

Posted by: Anonymous on October 15, 2008 7:28 PM

Not sure McCain should bring up our wanting to trust him...

Posted by: Yoshi on October 15, 2008 7:30 PM

It's funny how McCain complained about Obama running attack ads, but he spent the entire debate attacking Obama.

Posted by: scott on October 15, 2008 7:32 PM

Quick - check WSJ to see if McCain is running "McCain Wins Debate" ads.

Posted by: Jim in Missoula on October 15, 2008 7:43 PM

I love you and your debate coverage. Matthew Baldwin is my new Tim Russert. :) I think you need a virtual white board.

PS. Kinda wishing McCain had chosen Joe the Plumber for VP. Maybe he can be secretary of the interior or something.

Posted by: steph on October 15, 2008 8:21 PM

I think the October surprise will be a gay love affair between Joe the Plumber & Joe Six Pack.

Posted by: Buster Westview on October 15, 2008 8:36 PM

The other day, someone mentioned to me that McCain looks like a bullfrog. Haven't been able to look at him without giggling since. It's very distracting. Who can focus on the issues when all that's in your head is a really deep *ribbit*??

Posted by: Lene on October 15, 2008 9:15 PM

Every time I see McCain on camera, I am reminded of Robert Shaw's speech in "Jaws": "...he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes."

Posted by: mlberry on October 15, 2008 10:33 PM

Wow... all the comments here are saying all the same things—everybody echoing each other...

Are other points of view welcome here? I'm being sincere and do mean that with all good intentions--I won't waste your time or my time if it's not.

I thought it was a good debate, much more spirited, better moderated questions, and I think McCain ate Obama's lunch overall.

You all probably can't wait to give more of YOUR hard earned money to Senator Government or soon to be President Government... I can.

Posted by: IrascibleChef on October 15, 2008 11:34 PM

You know what the problem is with passive aggression, Mr. or Ms. Chef? It's so transparent.

Posted by: The Scarlet Pervygirl on October 16, 2008 12:34 AM

First off, as a life-long Peanuts fan, I was disappointed that neither candidate reached out to Joe Cool in the debate.

Secondly, here's the "Oh, snap!" comeback that I wish Obama had made: "When it comes to the economy, do average Americans really want their economic future decided by someone who doesn't even remember how many houses he owns? Hey, Joe, if you're worried about your plumbing business, you're in luck! With seven homes, you could probably put your kids through college on Senator McCain's houses alone!"

Finally, what's the deal with Federalist suddenly meaning someone who supports states' rights, as opposed to the historical definition of someone who supports a strong federal government? Does this mean that in 100 years, the term environmentalist will be defined as someone who drinks crude oil from a plastic water bottle lined with polar bear pelts?

Posted by: Eric on October 16, 2008 6:40 AM

What I took from the debate was that Obama wants to take away my video games. After that all I heard was "buzz buzz click pop ding buzz buzz"

With regards to this hatchet and scalpal. Can we use the scalpal to excise our favorite parts of both candidates and then graft them together to form one super agreeable candidate...that I like to call Obamacain.

Posted by: PrintsCharming on October 16, 2008 8:49 AM

passive-aggressive adjective of or denoting a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation, as in procrastinating, pouting, or misplacing important materials.

I don't think there was anything passive aggressive about my comments—it's called different point of view. You just don't like that there are people with different points of view than yours.

"Are other points of view welcome here? I'm being sincere and do mean that with all good intentions--I won't waste your time or my time if it's not."

Asking, doesn't make it passive. Transparent?—what was I saying other than what I said. I think you meant direct.

I think your own post says it all:

I had a sex dream about Obama last night.

Could we please just hold the fucking election already?"

Posted by: IrascibleChef on October 16, 2008 10:09 AM

Interesting. How was he?

Could somebody get Chef some cookies and a throw pillow so we can go back to holding hands and singing kumbayah and shit? Isn't that what we pinko liberal hippy...uh, what are they calling us this year? Whatever. Isn't that what we do?

Welcome, Chef!

Posted by: akeeyu on October 16, 2008 1:01 PM


I know what it sounds like but... a Federalist holds the belief that a strong national government is restricted to the powers granted by the Constitution and that any power not specifically so identified is reserved for the individual states and the people. Many of the early Federalists opposed adding The Bill of Rights to The Constitution... lest the people be allowed ONLY those rights.

Posted by: Michelle on October 16, 2008 1:04 PM

McCain has replaced "My Friends" with "Joe the Plumber."

McCain also appears to be angry with Obama in a personal way. McCain needs to take a few acting lessons. He appears to be less personable than Obama.

Oh yea. Hey guys, what about the real issues? I don't care about Ayers and that other stuff.

Posted by: katie W jones on October 16, 2008 1:46 PM

Did you just reference 'combobreaker' in debate coverage? You big nerd!

I'm so sad that I understood it and laughed.

Posted by: Shawn on October 16, 2008 2:31 PM

McCain may have lost the vote, but like hell we'll put a nigger in the White House.

Posted by: Some Republican Troll on October 16, 2008 3:12 PM


Take it somewhere else please...your hate is unbecoming and language is offensive.

Posted by: PrintsCharming on October 16, 2008 3:17 PM

I can't believe this is all going to be over in a few weeks. It feels like this campaign been going on since 1942.

Posted by: Rob Cockerham on October 16, 2008 3:24 PM

Thank you akeeyu! I appreciate that. Chocolate cookies would be this chef's choice.

That can't be a serious comment below? Way out of bounds!

Posted by: IrascibleChef on October 16, 2008 6:31 PM

Obama remained "unflappable." Which is also what they said about Dick Cheney.

Posted by: Greg on October 16, 2008 7:04 PM

ACORN is the new Haliburton.

Posted by: Greg on October 16, 2008 7:05 PM

How I hate it when the office blocks youtube, but reading the commentary alone is hillarious. Can't wait to catch this back home.

Posted by: Myron Tay on October 16, 2008 8:47 PM

akeeyu: my new hero! i laughed my pants off reading your comments.

kswolff: i think, after peeking at kswolff's blog, that the comment here is in the nature of satire. or something.

i like chocolate cookies.
and yeah - i had no idea the autism "special interest group" was so powerful these days.


Posted by: k on October 17, 2008 12:08 AM

I find it funny and telling that the above comments make no mention of Obama's wealth redistribution plan. It's only a tax cut for the middle (economic) class. For those who pay nothing in taxes, it's a handout, paid in full by the Joe the Business Owners of the world, and of course by 40% of every raise you get under the plan, since that's the new marginal rate if you make less than $45K.

Anyway, back to attacking a plumber for uttering heretical words and questioning the Messiah.

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Posted by: footjob on October 17, 2008 8:35 PM

It's called irony.

Posted by: Some Republican Troll on October 17, 2008 8:42 PM

Redistribution of wealth, the death of the last descending voice with the re-establishment of the 'Fairness Doctrine'...if this 'Super Majority' comes to pass this will be a frightening place to live.

My prediction within 2 years of an Obama administration and a super majority you'll see large national corporations pull up US operations and base themselves elsewhere.

Posted by: PrintsCharming on October 20, 2008 10:12 AM