McCain is really far behind. FiveThirtyEight gives Obama a 95.1% chance of winning on November 4 and 270towin gives Obama over a 99.5% chance of winning if the election were held right now. That’s a huge deficit, and this was McCain’s last chance to make a big splash.
Unfortunately for him, tonight was just not enough.
In by far the most interesting debate of the series (whether due to the format, the candidates, or the moderator, I don’t know), McCain did a lot better than he had done before. It’s possible that his attacks on Obama as another tax-and-spend liberal were likely very effective for the Republican base. However, the Republican base is not who he needs now. Since the economic meltdown, the Independents have been moving strongly to Obama, and I don’t think that the red meat for the GOP base will sway those Independents.
It didn’t help that McCain made a lot of flubs – Sarah Palin’s experience is with a child with Downs Syndrome, not autism. His laugh line about insurance was supposed to be about “hair transplants”, not just transplants (and since it flopped so badly in the second debate, I’m surprised he even tried again). There were a couple of others, but I don’t remember them right now (I’m a bit distracted).
Lots of McCain’s facial expressions were negative, and I think he’ll get knocked down on the visual of seething contempt vs. Obama’s confident smiling (apparently, CNN’s instant poll has Obama winning “likability” 70% to 22%).
I don’t have a lot to say about Obama here – this debate was simply a lot less important for him than it was for McCain. As some have noted, we’re in “dead girl, live boy territory” (a reference to an old political line that the only way the leader could lose is if he’s caught with a dead girl or a live boy), and Obama just needed to avoid a major gaffe. He did what he needed to do.
As I’m typing this, I’m seeing from the pundits that the instant polling from all the networks is that Obama won – apparently even from Fox! I’m surprised that the reaction is that consistent, but it probably means that we should be getting ready for President Barack Obama. And I think that’s great news for America.