- One of my favorite moments of the debate was a Freudian slip that McCain made, where he inadvertently (or not?) called Barack Obama "Senator Government." If he'd meant it, it would have been apt and even witty. But wit has been the one thing that McCain has lacked throughout this campaign. And when I say wit I mean being ingenious, clever, sagacious -- pick your term. McCain just seems like a plodder when he shares a stage with Obama. And it hurts him.
- Moderator Bob Schieffer was not a factor at all. That means he was effective.
- Obama was running the four corners tonight and was pretty much able to get by with it. He said a few things that were demonstrably wrong -- his claim that McCain has run 100% negative ads is ridiculous, and his assertion that he can save the average family $2500 in health insurance doesn't stand up to scrutiny, nor does his repeated assertion that he will provide tax cuts to 95% of Americans. He may give refunds to people, but those refunds will be something akin to the Earned Income Tax Credit, because as many as 40% of Americans do not actually pay income tax. Income taxes are withheld, of course, but a lot of Americans have sufficient tax credits that the entirety of the amount is refunded. But try explaining that in a 30-second ad.
- Joe the Plumber apparently is a hell of a guy. He must be, because he was the focus of a good portion of the debate and both candidates were pandering like hell for his vote. Joe probably understands that he'll lose out under Obama's plan, but he isn't saying who he'll vote for. Good for him, by the way. And I do hope that he enjoys his 15 minutes of fame. Someday he'll be on a Trivial Pursuit card, right after the one for Quemoy and Matsu.
- It was probably six months too late, but it was about time that McCain said what he did about George W. Bush, especially saying that if Obama wanted to run against Bush, he should have done so four years ago. I don't think it will help McCain at this late hour, but Obama deeply deserved that particular rebuke.
- The one avenue of attack on Obama that I have been waiting for McCain to make almost came up today, but he didn't follow up. Early on, McCain challenged Obama to name one time that he had bucked his party's leadership. Obama essentially sidestepped the question and that was the end of it. But the question that McCain really ought to be asking for the remainder of the campaign is this: what has Obama ever really accomplished? I asked this question a while back in a long comment thread regarding the Palin-Biden debate and my one of my portside posters submitted a list of eight rather pedestrian achievements, including writing a bill in the Illinois Senate that passed 58-0 (a real profile in courage, that) and another about the time that Obama took a public AIDS test in Africa to show people there that they don't need to fear testing. What's become increasingly clear is the disconnect between the faith that a lot of voters have in Obama's rhetoric and the actual record of accomplishment that he has produced. His career as the junior senator from Illinois is remarkably undistinguished: Amy Klobuchar has done more in two years than Obama has in four and no one would suggest that she should be President. But McCain has never made this case effectively. Truth be told, he hasn't really tried.
Unless there's some sort of deus ex machina in the next three weeks, Obama is going to become President of the United States. There is a fair amount of smoke coming from the ongoing revelations about ACORN (and a RICO suit would focus the issue nicely) and there's a chance that Tony Rezko could still cause Obama some heartburn, but none of that will come out until after the election, because Patrick Fitzgerald isn't Lawrence Walsh. Besides, my guess is that Fitzgerald is really after Mayor Daley, not Obama. Let's put it this way: Obama had better be as good as my portside friends think he is, because he will inherit a real mess. If it turns out that Obama is an empty suit, God help us.