The candidates were asked whether Russia was once again an 'evil empire'
TEXT COMMENTARY (all times CDT, GMT-5)
By Jude Sheerin
2217 We'll also be covering live the final presidential debate on Wednesday next week in Long Island, New York. It focuses on domestic issues (ie the economy) and the candidates will be firmly seated throughout. That's a format which one of McCain's debating advisers has said does not favour him. We hope you can join us then.
2208 That was fairly muted all round and while there was some mud-slinging it was certainly not a "gloves-off" debate. As to who won, it will be interesting to see what the spin room svengalis are coming up with right now.
Henry, Seattle, US:This debate was basically a rehash of the first debate. Nothing really new. Neither candidate won big pionts, and neither had any blunders.
Hugh Hewitt, Townhall The critical exchange came early, and McCain won it because he has the truth on his side. Obama did not answer McCain's stinging assault on Obama's and his party's complicity in the financial meltdown brought about by Fannie and Freddie.
Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo There's some room for interpretation. But it certainly looks like McCain left Obama hanging when Obama put his hand out to shake. But before you make up your mind, you should see the video.
2200 BBC World News America anchor Matt Frei says McCain the older man seemed to have a glass half-full outlook and appealed to Americans' innate optimism, while Obama the younger man came across as more sombre.
Jim Geraghty, National Review blog, The Campaign Spot Because he's trailing, we needed to see something different from McCain tonight. It wasn't a bad night for him, and most of his answers were fine. But there wasn't anything that any of us are going to remember in a couple of days.
2159 Joe Klein adds: Both underestimated the American people, neither was prepared to say what everybody knows, that times are going to get worse, and that we are going to have to pull in our belts a little. He adds that Obama seems young and comfortable, while McCain doesn't.
2156 The BBC's Katty Kay says the candidates didn't really answer many of the questions, especially on the economy, they kept criticising each other's policies and Obama in particular kept banging on about the last eight years of Bush.
2154 Time magazine's columnist, Joe Klein, tells BBC World the candidates' answers were word-for-word the same as in last debate. He says McCain hasn't changed the tenor of the race and did not do what his people promised: Come out slugging hard.
Michelle Malkin, Michelle Malkin blog Brokaw saves the most insipid question of the night for last from "Peggy in Amherst:" "What don't you know and how will you learn it?" Obama immediately launches into his Dreams of My Father biography spiel. Talking up his mom again. Food stamps…McCain ignores the question and gives his same wrap-up statement as last week: Country first.
Erick Erickson, RedState Obama is doing his best to play a victim, but even watching the CNN independent voter lines, it doesn't appear to be working to his advantage. People don't like whiners.
2144 Alison Mann, an undecided US voter on BBC World TV, says she is disappointed and still undecided. Another US swing voter, Michael Clearly, says the candidates seemed more interested in attacking one another than addressing the issues.
Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic blog, The Daily Dish This was, I think, a mauling: a devastating and possibly electorally fatal debate for McCain…Simply on terms of substance, clarity, empathy, style and authority, this has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out.
Kathleen Groark, Hickory Hills, Illinois, US:Obama did better touching on his actual policies than McCain, but both candidates have not really said anything new.
2141 Nashville may be Music City but we certainly heard a lot of the same old tired riffs from these two candidates tonight in terms of attacks and prepared spiel. Did either strike a bum note? Do let us know your thoughts.
Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo Very strong conclusion by Obama. I think he served himself very well with that. Through the debate his answers have been more coherent; he's connected them better to ordinary concerns.
UtahGOP tweets: Obama has NO ANSWER for last question: what don't you know and how are you going to learn it? Apparently the One cannot admit his faults.
2137 It's over, they both dashed into the auditorium to press the flesh, joined by their wives. Ironically, Michelle Obama is wearing a red dress (Republican party colour) and Cindy is wearing a blue dress (Democrats' colour). Has there been any political cross-dressing from the candidates tonight?
2134 McCain: I don't know what's going to happen at home and abroad. But I've spent my whole life serving this country, I know what it's like in tough times and to have neighbours and comrades pick you up and put you back in the fight.
2132 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: On verbiage - as S Palin would put it - Obama leads for sure; he repeated less and had some good lines. McCain seems angry and repeats lines from previous debates. So no disasters for either candidate but Obama edges it - I cannot see how the McCain performance enthuses the middle ground.
2132 Obama not really answering the question here, giving a spiel about how American dream is slipping away and we must move in a new direction.
2129 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: A couple of general points about body-language: I thought McCain looked pretty good once he stopped prowling. He is lean and responsive. Obama is cool and tall but not so quickly responsive. Neither really engaged with the audience, partly because the rules did not allow it. McCain is back on whatever drugs lead you to say "my friend" every two minutes. They will be confiscated before next week. Obama cannot seem to begin an answer with a snappy yes or no or maybe - he has to change gears.
2130 Question from battleground state of New Hampshire: What don't you know and how will you learn it? Obama gets a laugh as he says: Ask my wife.
Bret Rosol, Orange County, California, US: Hate to sound predictable here but both candidates are doing a great job at telling the American public what they want to hear.
2130 Obama says we should have direct talks with Iran. Bush's approach hasn't worked, he says.
2128 Obama: We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon and threaten our ally Israel. We will never take military options off the table and we can't provide veto power to UN.
Factcheck.org comments: Obama said that the US was paying too much for the war in Iraq, while the Iraqis have a "$79 billion surplus"… That number is wrong. The Iraqis actually "have" $29.4 billion in the bank.
2126 A familiar attack as McCain repeats his argument that Obama's plans for tough direct diplomacy with Iran will see dictators dandling the Democrat on his knee.
2126 Next question: If Iran attacks Israel, will you commit US troops without prior nod from UN Security Council? McCain: Obviously not.
2124 More laughter with next question: Is Russia evil empire? McCain: Maybe.
2123 Obama: McCain said we could muddle through in Afghanistan and catch Bin Laden later.
Betsy, San Francisco: Biden did a better job of presenting the Democratic position. This is disheartening to me. Obama is better than this
2123 Obama: We must see around corners to anticipate these problems before they happen. Back in April, I warned it was unsustainable to have Russian peacekeepers in Georgian provinces.
NekoNick tweets: McCain: "I know where Osama bin Laden is, but I'm not telling. Vote for me to find out! Neener neener neener!"
John Russell, UK:Barack Obama is skating over virtually every issue, which shows he has studied current situations, filled his head with possible questions and answers, but has rarely in this debate shown an in-depth knowledge
2120 On Russia, McCain: I warned about Putin. McCain repeats a joke he has used many times before, that he looked into Putin's eyes and saw three letters: K-G-B.
Michelle Malkin, Michelle Malkin blog Obama recycles "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" and annihilation of North Korea talking points. Like I said: This is just a rehash of last week's debate.
2119 McCain: We need an Afghan troop surge, Obama still won't admit he was wrong about that in Iraq.
2119 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: Obama is getting McCain cross now - with another jab at his bomb bomb bomb Iran song. McCain tries a defence - it was a joke with a friend. He knows how to get Osama Bin Laden but he won't tell us how.
2118 Next question on Afghanistan. Obama says he made clear to Afghan president that Karzai must do better by his people and frankly it's not happening right now.
Matt Yglesias, Think Progress McCain suggested that he opposed Ronald Reagan's deployment of US forces to Lebanon. In fact, he initially favored deploying the troops and only later argued for their withdrawal making arguments, one should note, that sound an awful lot like the arguments for redeploying from Iraq that he now deplores.
Alicia Bauers, Minnesota, US:They are so busy pointing fingers that I forget the original question! We need serious help and all these two can do is circle around each other.
2116 McCain: That was a joke about bombing Iran. I'll get Bin Laden no matter what.
2116 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: Brilliant question from the audience on Pakistan - to pursue or not to pursue. Obama says he would. McCain, oddly, is making a different case. He may well be right (Obama seems not to realise what would happen in Pakistan) but it is dangerous for him. He sounds soft on terrorists, frankly. God knows what will happen if Sarah Palin finds out.
2114 Kapow! Obama: McCain is the man who sang 'Bomb Iran' and threatened to annihilate North Korea, that's not talking softly.
2114 Obama: I want a follow-up. In the auditorium the audience chuckles as a prickly McCain insists: I want a follow-up too. Tom Brokaw agrees and lets McCain have a comeback.
2113 McCain attacks: Obama's plan for military strikes in Pakistan is remarkable. He talks loudly, while my hero Roosevelt said 'I walk softly and carry a big stick.'
Athena Jones, MSNBC blog, First Read Both men seemed to move away from connecting their answers to ordinary people or the middle class - as much - during the second half hour as they discussed spending priorities and energy.
2111 Obama: We can't coddle a dictator while he's making peace treaties with Taleban, we must insist Pakistan goes after militants, if we have Bin Laden in our sights and Pakistan government won't act, we must.
2111 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: Obama ignores a question about the effects of the economic downturn on US military power and hits McCain on Iraq. Brokaw asks a good question on the use of force when there are no national security issues at stake. Obama makes the case for intervention. But then unmakes it - the allies must do it as well. McCain agrees, pretty much.
The Washington Post's Fact Checker comments: Obama claimed that the government had invented the computer in order to encourage scientists to communicate. He probably meant the Internet. The personal computer was invented by Apple and other private companies. IBM pioneered the mechanical punch card tabulating machines which formed the basis for the large mainframe computers.
2109 Obama: We focused on Iraq and let Bin Laden escape.
2109 Next question: Should we respect Pakistan's sovereignty?
2108 McCain says his judgment was right on sending US Marines into Lebanon in 1980s, while his "hero" Reagan was wrong.
Factcheck.org comments: Obama was off the mark when he said that oil companies have "68 million acres that they're not using". As we've pointed out previously, those 68 million acres of land are not producing oil, but they are not necessarily untouched. In fact, in 2006, the last year for which figures are available, there were a total of more than 15,000 holes that were being proposed, started or finished. These acres of land that these holes sit on are not counted as being "producing," but they are certainly far from untouched.
2107 McCain: If we had followed Obama's plan for a deadline for withdrawal our troops would be coming home from Iraq in defeat.
2105 Moderator asks: What is McCain/Obama foreign policy doctrine? Obama says we cannot stand idly by when genocide is happening, but we can't be everywhere at once. In Darfur, we could be setting up no-fly zone at little cost but only if we can mobilise international community.
seanosh tweets: Obama: "I may not understand everything." Humility. Something we haven't seen in a leader in a long time.
PalmettoScoop tweets: Shifting to foreign policy. That plus a town hall format has to = a big finish for McCain.
2104 Obama says strains on our alliances and failing economy in recent years have affected our ability to act. Bush-McCain foreign policy hasn't worked, he says.
Casey, Madison, Wisconsin, US:The tax issue keeps coming up in the debate and it gets frustrating.. I wish the candidates would just say what they really mean instead of beating around the bush.
2102 Obama makes the usual retort that McCain may have been right about the surge but he was wrong about everything else in Iraq. He portrays McCain as the candidate for Perpetual-War-Without-End, Amen.
2101 McCain on the attack again: Obama in his short career was wrong about Iraq troop surge and Russia and Georgia, we don't have time for on-the-job training.
2100 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: Interesting debate now on health with the fundamental issue of government intrusion. McCain is still in the anti-government mold, but Obama points out where he believes regulation works - in respect of insurance companies, for instance. I wonder whether recent events will affect the balance of view on this among viewers and voters .....
Stacina tweets: Obama might be able to follow the time rules if he'd quit doing all the dramatic rhetorical pauses.
2100 McCain says he has experience, knowledge and judgment. Translation: Obama is a mere cub and upstart.
Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic blogMcCain points at Obama: "That one" -- as in -- "That one" voted for the 2005 energy bill. That was a little too aggressive. Am getting a lot of e-mails about McCain's "THAT ONE."
2059 Next question: How will all recent economic stress affect our ability to act as peacemaker in the world?
2059 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: McCain does not answer either. The answer is that healthcare in America is a mess. Obama now says health is a right - McCain says it's a responsibility.
2058 McCain seems to skulk in the background during Obama's replies, smirking sardonically at everyone as if to say: Can you believe this guy?
2057 Obama: Healthcare should be a right, my mother died of cancer at age of 53 and spent last months of her life arguing with insurance firms, there's something fundamentally wrong with that. Excellent feeling of the pain there from Obama.
digitaldarling1 tweets: obama does not understand the concept of risk!
John O Donnell, Dublin, Ireland:McCain sounds like he is trying too hard to emphasise his maverick status - his voice sounds a lot more strained when making his points.
2056 McCain: Healthcare is a responsibility, I'm nervous about government mandates.
2055 McCain fails to get a laugh as he talks about people with gold-plated healthcare policies that provide hair transplants and says he might need one himself.
2054 McCain parries saying Obama always says government will do this, government will do that. Claims Obama will push through a government-mandated scheme.
2054 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: To the question "Do you believe health care should be treated as a commodity" Obama fails miserably to connect. He does not say yes or no. He merely wanders into a stump speech take on his proposals. He is no Bill Clinton. He is no George Bush, frankly. YES OR NO!!
2053 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: Bush and Cheney! McCain mentions them with contempt. Contempt he must truly feel.
2052 Obama says McCain's plan for a $5,000 tax credit to boost uptake of private insurance would actually cost most families more money than it would save.
kenknight tweets: How many times will McCain say "my friends?" sheesh
Factcheck.org comments: McCain said that Obama has proposed $860 billion in new spending. That's based on a McCain campaign estimate of how much Obama's new proposals will cost, without figuring in any savings or reductions in spending. A more traditional, and arguably more useful, measure of spending is how much a given candidate's proposals will increase the federal debt… By 2013, Obama's major budget policies would add $286 billion to that year's deficit, while McCain's would add $211 billion.
2050 Next question: Do you believe healthcare should be treated as a commodity?
2049 Next question lost me; something about the Manhattan Project, environmental research and garages, any ideas?
2047 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: The reply to the question about how to create new energy technology gives Obama a good line - that for 30 years Washington has done nothing. For 26 McCain has been there. Not really fair - he has tried, but quite a good line.
2047 Obama on the attack again. He says McCain's been in Washington 26 years and voted 23 times against alternative fuels during that time.
Karen, Miami, US:Tom Brokaw is taking his job too seriously - first we had moderators that were a bit lenient and now they are acting as army generals.
2046 Obama: Climate change is a national security issue and one of the biggest challenges of our times, with a new energy economy we can create 5 million new jobs.
2046 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: McCain does repeat himself - he is on about Reagan and Tip O'Neil for the second time. He manages to avoid the appalling "Miss Congeniality" joke. But his basic message on tax is tough - he looks like a cutter but Obama not so much.
2045 McCain says how he and Joe Lieberman co-sponsored a climate change bill. He says he is for nuclear and Obama isn't.
2043 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: Obama is on the attack on tax now - defending his tax proposals. Clinton (Bill) would have done a touchy-feely job here - who among you earns over 250 grand? etc. Obama prefers to lecture.
2042 McCain is laying on the "My friends" very thick. He says let's get rid of lobbyists and special interests. He says it's about rhetoric and record, trying to say Obama talks the talk but can't walk the walk.
2043 Question: We saw Congress move fast in economic crisis, what will you do to ensure Congress moves fast to protect the environment?
2041 McCain chortles as he says: I'll answer the question, implying Obama hasn't.
2040 Obama: McCain wants to give average Fortune 500 CEO an extra $700,000 in tax cuts.
2040 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: McCain sounds angry - as some thought he had to. He talks of Senator Obama's tax secret that you don't know! But the tax issue is important and I suspect he is convincing to some - Obama also senses it and tries to come back but is steamrollered by Brokaw.
2039 Obama: I want to provide tax cut for 95% of Americans. Keep Bush tax cuts for those earning under $250,000 a year, scrapping them for those who earn more. Vast majority of small business would get a tax cut under my plan, he says.
2038 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: Obama has a good line with McCain's tax cuts benefiting CEOs - who have gone from heroes to zeros in modern US iconography.
2038 Obama tries to add another tuppence worth on tax but the moderator refuses.
2037 McCain says Obama would tax small businesses and they are the engine of American economic growth. Let's not raise anybody's taxes.
2032 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: To the question: "What will you sacrifice?" McCain talks about cutting government programmes and Obama talks about cutting energy use. This is a clear difference and comes to the fore because the question was sharply focused.
Michelle Malkin, Michelle Malkin blog It would be wise to dramatically lower your expectations of this debate. The town hall format lends itself to the worst pander-style, personal sob story politicking.
DarrenTomlyn, Leeds, UK:McCain was wrong about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - they weren't the cause of the sub-prime mess, they were some of the symptoms
2034 Obama says McCain has been talking tough about earmarks but they only account for $18bn of our budget, this is dwarfed by the tax cuts McCain would award CEOs, he says.
The Washington Post's fact Checker comments: McCain continues to make an issue out of earmarks, which are only a small part of the overall federal budget. The big ticket items are entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and defence spending, which together represent much of the federal budget; earmarks are just $16 billion out of a more than a $2 trillion budget.
2033 Next question: How would you try to break problems of bad debt and easy credit?
2033 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: Obama knows how much petrol (gas) is in Nashville. Interesting that he puts energy above health as a priority - he would not have done that before gas got so pricey.
2032 Obama: We all remember 9/11. Bush did some smart things initially but Bush missed an opportunity when he said to Americans: "Go out and shop." Anyone know what is Obama talking about?
2030 McCain says we can attack healthcare and energy at the same time, we can work together to solve these problems.
Jim Geraghty, National Review blog, The Campaign Spot: McCain finally points out that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were making reckless loans. He mentions that Obama is the second-highest recipient of Fannie and Freddie donations in history. The sentence structure was a little more meandering than I would have preferred, but he made the points I wanted to hear.
2029 A 78-year-old child of the Depression asks: What sacrifices will you ask Americans to make to restore American dream? McCain: We must eliminate some programmes, failing government agencies, earmarks and wasteful defence spending. He recommends a spending freeze, except for defence.
2029 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: McCain is on the attack again - does this work? He is listing Obama's faults. Including millions of dollars for an overhead projector for an Illinois project! Convincing to those who don't think much of Obama, but I am not sure this gets to floating voters....
2028 Obama says McCain wants to add $300bn of tax cuts per year for corporations.
Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times blog, The Caucus: Mr. Obama is up on his feet right away, and steps close to the audience. He seems relaxed.
2027 Obama's presidential priorities: Countries like Venezuela, Iran are benefiting from high oil prices, I will invest $15bn a year in alternative fuels, in 10 years we can achieve energy independence. Healthcare is priority number two, number three is education.
2026 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: I think McCain may be getting too close. He has a tendency to go up to the audience and prowl like a lion.
2025 What are your presidential priorities? McCain says: We have to have alternative fuels, we can take on this mission, some of the $700bn (we spend on oil every year) ends up in hands of terrorists.
2025 McCain pivots to energy and promises he can accomplish the goal of ending US dependency on Middle East oil.
2024 McCain says he can see why voters feel cynicism as Washington is broken and he is a reformer, bipartisan, maverick etc etc. Obama has never taken on leaders of his party on a single issue, he says.
2023 McCain says Obama advocates $860bn of new spending and he voted for every increase in spending that I saw on the Senate while we were trying to eliminate pork barrel.
Thinkprogress.org comments: McCain is saying that two years ago, he stood up and warned against the excesses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. NPR has fact-checked this claim as an exaggeration, saying that it was Senator Chuck Hagel who actually took the lead to tighten regulation in 2005. McCain simply released a press release saying he was a co-sponsor.
2021 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: McCain is on a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac attack - suggesting Obama and the Democrats let the two institutions go on a spending spree. This is a reasonable line, I think - it points out that much of the deregulation objected to by the Democrats (now) was actually supported by them at the time. Obama hits back with the deregulation on Wall St - and McCain's backing for it. And a good line - you're not interested in politicians pointing fingers.
2020 Another voter asks: How can we trust either of you when both of your parties got us into this mess? Obama says when Bush came into office we had a budget surplus, now we have record deficit. Sen McCain voted for four out of five Bush budgets.
2018 McCain says American economy won't necessarily get worse as American workers are best in the world.
2017 Obama says American economy won't necessarily get worse before it gets better. He says: We must change culture in Washington so lobbyists (another dig at McCain) aren't drowning out your voices.
2013 First blood to McCain. McCain: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went out with the encouragement of "Obama and his cronies" to get all these irresponsible loans.
2010 BBC North America editor Justin Webb: Obama gets it - he has no answer (it would be odd to name someone right now for either candidate) but he talks of the qualities the person will need.
2009 BBC North America editor Justin Webb:Oh gosh a weird answer from McCain to the question - who will your treasury secretary be? Not you, he shoots back. It sounds odd.
2012 Next question: What is in bail-out package to help ordinary Americans? McCain says it's a rescue, not a bail-out, he says I left my campaign to help rescue the economy.
Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times blog, The Caucus: The moderator, Tom Brokaw, says he has some "excellent questions." The candidates come out, and then sit down on their director's chairs. Mr. McCain starts scribbling something right away on his note pad. What on earth could he be writing?
2010 Obama: Next Treasury Sec must realise prosperity won't just trickle down, we must help middle classes. Obama revives again McCain's much-derided statement that the fundamentals of the US economy are sound.
2011 Obama says if he is president 95% of working people in America will get a tax break.
2009 Who would you replace as US Treasury Secretary? McCain doesn't seem to have an idea what to say, while Obama looks relieved that he hasn't had to take the question first.
2008 BBC North America editor Justin Webb:Obama is up and running with a smooth riff on the economy - a populist swipe at some executives who have already misbehaved with taxpayer money.
McCain answers as well with some specifics - important for him - and a nice walk into the audience. Risks looking frightening but he brings it off.
2008 McCain has notched up two uses of his favourite phrase "My friends" - he's reportedly been warned against over-using it.
2007 McCain says it's good to be with Obama at a town hall meeting. Like Obama he walks forward speaking directly to voters. McCain: Let's keep all Americans' taxes low. As president I would order bad home loans to be bought up so people could stay in their homes, he says.
DennyBurk tweets: Expecting John McCain not to have a game-changing performance in the 2nd presidential debate.
2005BBC North America editor Justin Webb:My great hope as the questions begin is that ordinary people are slightly better questioners than the first two utterly hopeless overpaid "moderators".
2005 Obama says economic meltdown is the "final verdict" on Bush's deregulation policies, supported by McCain. The Democrat tries to hammer home his campaign's central message that his opponent is "McBush".
KellyWilliams tweets: Will McCain will look at Obama tonight? Yep, He looked at him. A very different start than the last one.
2004 First question: With the economy on downturn what's the fastest solution to bail out lower income citizens?
BrianReich tweets: Tom Brokaw looks good - wearing a red tie. Must be biased towards McCain (grin/kidding).
2004 So here goes: No teleprompters, advisors or aides memoires, must be terrifying sitting there.
2003 Here they come. Much more positive body language from McCain. He looks Obama in the eye and smiles. When they shook hands in the first debate McCain acted almost as though the Democrat was trying to steal his watch.
Daniel, Denver:If McCain continues down his moral cul-de-sac with slurs and smears, it will only backfire on him. The people prefer a presidential demeanour with statements rich in facts and policy.
1957 In the 1992 debate Clinton stole the show with a lip-nibbling display of feeling voters' pain. That kind of empathy will be even more vital in this economic climate. Bush Snr blew it that night by glancing at his watch during a voter's question.
1955 I'm told the live streaming video is now working: you can find it at the top of this page if you refresh.
1952 I wonder if there could be a "moment" tonight like during the 1992 presidential debate between Bill Clinton and George H W Bush? Back then a voter, later dubbed Ponytail Guy, harangued the candidates over negative campaigning.
1949 This contest's recent ugly tone reminds me of a senator's comment last year about negative attacks. "Never get into a wrestling match with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it." Who said that? Step forward John McCain.
1947 Obama's campaign says their man will aim to come across as "even-keeled" tonight. With their new campaign ad labelling McCain "erratic" can we expect further attacks on the Arizona senator's temperament?
1944 If John McCain, the Arizona senator, tries to take the fight too aggressively to Obama he could fall into a trap, justifying his enemy's claim that he is too volatile to have his finger hovering over the proverbial button.
1941 Following personal attacks from both sides in recent days, there could be fireworks tonight. McCain has suggested (egged on by Sarah Palin) that the gloves will come off. However, pugnacity may not play so well with this small audience.
janedavis tweets: Live tweeting the debate until I can't stands no more. Interested to see how Obama does with the town hall format.
1937 With recent polls not looking too peachy for McCain, pundits say he needs a game-changer. The Arizona senator is under pressure from some conservatives to go for the jugular (Not literally, that would be appalling).
williamse2000, Pennsylvania, US: As a registered Republican I am really looking for McCain to outline an economic plan that addresses the fact that tax cuts, as a cornerstone of economic policy, has failed under President Bush.
yaacov tweets: Donating a dollar to obama every time McCain says maverick
1934 The McCain camp hasn't indulged in the usual pre-debate tactic of lowering expectations, they say the Republican excels in town-hall settings and will be at the top of his game. The Obama camp says their man is tonight's underdog.
1931 How will the Democrat, who revels in the mega-rally, cope in this smaller, more intimate setting? McCain likes town halls so much he challenged Obama to 10 such debates across the country. Obama declined.
MikeBates tweets: McCain talking point: Are you better off now than you were two years ago when the Democrats took control of Congress?
PalmettoScoop tweets: McCain needs a win and a "Reagan Moment" tonight. As I said earlier today, he's down 14 pts with 4 mins left in game. We need a TD tonight.
1925 While Sarah Palin was able in last week's VP debate to tell the moderator she wouldn't answer her questions if she didn't want to, it will be much harder for the candidates to wiggle out of it tonight - the the questions will be coming from undecided voters (in person and by e-mail).
1918 The evening will be moderated by Tom Brokaw of NBC News. The format is a two-minute answer followed by a one-minute discussion for each question.
1913 A national poll said Obama won the first debate. Independent voters told pollsters they did not like McCain's combative demeanour and his refusal to look the Democrat in the eye. Has McCain taken those comments on board?
SmoothStone tweets: McCain is going to hit a home run tonite.
akinmusuru, Ann Arbor, Michigan, US: The town-hall format is said to favour McCain. Maybe. They say he plans to charge at Obama all guns blazing . That, however, could be his undoing.
BlackCanseco tweets: So will McCain look at Obama while he's talking about him this time? I'm thinking, nope.
1900 Welcome to our live coverage of tonight's second presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, between Democratic nominee Barack Obama and the Republican candidate, John McCain. You know the drill: Our coverage will include insights from BBC North America editor Justin Webb, some of your e-mails and the best of the blogs. You can have your say here.
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