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McCain and Obama in tense final debate



A review of expert verdicts on the last of 2008's three presidential debates

Writer Verdict McCain score Obama score
Adam Nagourney, The Caucus blog, New York Times John McCain had Barack Obama on the defensive at times, but the Democrat won the bigger points. Mr Obama was "at ease and smiling", Mr McCain "coiled and annoyed". "There are probably going to be a lot of Republicans who wished... John McCain had come out so intensely... at the first debate." *** ****
Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic John McCain might have won - on points. "Solid policy answers, tough policy attacks, solid command of the facts. The first and last 30 minutes were among McCain's best. Around 30 minutes in, McCain seemed to surrender the debate to his frustrations. Obama was cool as a cucumber - except for a brief moment in the middle." *** **
Ezra Klein, American Prospect John McCain won on points but lost the debate. The Republican's "angry energy" was all too apparent and his attempts to find Mr Obama's vulnerabilities made him appear less presidential. "The Obama campaign clearly made a decision: don't attack. Leave McCain to throw punches on his own. Look like a president, not a candidate." *** ****
Hugh Hewitt, Townhall.com "Joe Plumber" helped John McCain appear strong. The Republican "scored big", his opponent looked angry and "stumbled repeatedly". "When Senator McCain slipped and called Senator Obama "Senator Government," he scored when he didn't even intend to. McCain accomplished more in just the first half of the debate than he did in the first two debates total." ***** *
Steve Benen, Washington Monthly If the debate was a final chance for John McCain to put in a "game-changing" performance, he missed it. "McCain positioned himself as a far-right Republican at precisely the time Americans want to move away from far-right Republicans. Obama has cornered the market on stature, temperament, and control. Where McCain was nasty, Obama was unflappable." * ****
Michelle Malkin, Michelle Malkin.com A big win for John McCain: "McCain challenges Obama's big government policies and mistakenly calls Obama 'Senator Government.' Yeah, that works." On abortion: "He's finally making up for all those missed opportunities. McCain nails Obama for his extreme, pro-abortion votes...Very eloquent. Good job, McCain." **** *
Kos, Daily Kos "Obama is on another level altogether. Perhaps if Romney or Giuliani was the nominee these would be fairer contests, but it's not even close. McCain needed to radically transform the shape of the race. That means a home-run performance coupled with an Obama collapse. Neither happened... This race is pretty much over." * *****

The scores assigned to the candidates represent the BBC's interpretation of the writers' comments. One star indicates a poor performance, five stars an excellent one.



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