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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

I apologize if I sound like a broken record. But once again, Obama won the debate according to essentially every objective metric. And recall that, even if the debate were a tie, this would not have helped John McCain; he needed a clear win tonight. Instead, he’s continued to dig himself into a deeper electoral hole.

The sense I had tonight was that McCain was overcoached — that he was trying too hard. I don’t think that he made any significant tactical errors. But he came across as nervous and awkward. And he is longer really fighting on a level playing field. In order to win this election, McCain needed to keep the Republican brand at arm’s-length. He had largely managed to do that until the Lehman Brothers collapse scared the Hell out of Main Street and reminded everyone of the failures of the status quo. McCain needed to empathize on the economy; his “fundamentals” comment made that very difficult. He needed to find some way to position himself in opposition to Senator Obama on the bailout, but he had boxed himself in with his gambit about suspending his campaign. McCain lost tonight, but the reasons for his failure stem from long before this evening.

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