Ballot Box

McCain did not have the game-changing debate he needed. Many argue that the candidate -- who was supposed to shine in a town hall setting -- fell flat because moderator Tom Brokaw kept interjecting with questions. Either way, McCain desperately needed a boost in polls and the debate didn't help him get there. Today's buzz: How the maverick fell flat.  

  • McCain, unused to sharing the stage during a town hall, appeared old and cantankerous compared to the younger and agile Obama, wrote Noam Scheiber on the New Republic's "The Stump" blog. It may have been Obama's best performance yet. Take-away: "It's as though it took fielding questions from ordinary people to remind him of this latent professorial [sic] talents." 
  • Byron York blames the moderator for McCain's poor performance. He wrote in the National Review Online that Brokaw interjected too many of his own questions into the debate and the Republican candidate couldn't shine because it wasn't a tried-and-true town hall. Take-away: "If McCain's advisers were hoping for genuine New Hampshire voter-interaction town hall experience, they didn't get it." 
  • If McCain wants to win he can't keep taking pages from Bob Dole's play book, wrote John J. Pitney Jr. in the National Review Online. Take-away: "McCain suffered from the same kind of cognitive dissonance."
  • The Republican candidate didn't have the debate he needed, wrote Ari Melber in The Nation. Take-away: "It's a major setback in a race that is trending towards Obama and running out of time."
  • John Dickerson wrote in Slate that even the audience composed of undecided voters showed affection toward Obama immediately after the debate, echoing the sentiments of what many already knew: McCain didn't deliver a knock-out.  Take-away: "McCain has 27 days to find a better way to take on his opponent or he'll be calling him Mr. President."
  • The New York Times editorialized that McCain is running one of the "most appalling campaigns we can remember" and that McCain's attempts not to go on the attack during the debate do not compensate for it.  Take-away: "In a way, we should not be surprised that Mr. Mccain has stooped so low, since the debate showed once again he has little else to talk about."
  • Obama managed to evade questions despite McCain's best efforts, editorialized the Wall Street Journal. Obama was full of contradicts such as complaining about spending in Iraq only to turn around and suggest a surge in Afghanistan. Take-away: "The Arizona Senator didn't knock Mr. Obama from his cool evasion or even do much to rebut the Democrat's routine talking points."
  • McCain was condescending to audience members, his thoughts were garbled and he referred to Obama as "that one," wrote Joan Walsh in Salon. Take-away: "McCain's standout gaffe wasn't so awful or inhuman, but it was equally tin-eared." 
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