Not A Game-Changer, But PassableJohn McCain fared much better in last night's presidential debate at Belmont than he had in the previous encounter between himself and Barack Obama. Despite what the press was saying in some of the post-debate commentary, McCain looked more relaxed and sounded more aggressive than he had at previous times during his entire campaign. He was especially relaxed going into the crowd, and it bears noting that the folks doing most of the questioning from the hall at least looked and sounded like ordinary Nashvillians and Tennesseans.
The down side to this debate, however, was that it was not the kind of game-changing event that the McCain campaign really needs in order to get things back on track. Despite McCain looking much-improved, Barack Obama is literally driving the campaign bus in a way that he simply has not been doing up until very recently. Obama didn't win last night's debate, but he held his own for the entire evening, and that was all that the Senator from Illinois really needed to do. He was successful at dodging difficult questions or answering them in such a way that the point of the question was never addressed, but it sounded like an answer. Of course, Obama is aided by a press that is friendly to him and his campaign, and that has proven to be quite inept at holding him to account.
None of this is to say that John McCain cannot turn the current trend around. Barack Obama's numbers are far from being insurmountable, and we have seen the numbers take a dramatic and sudden turn in unanticipated directions before. In addition, the closer the calendar moves to Election Day, the more likely the race will tighten as undecided voters begin to shift. For John McCain to take advantage of these possibilities and turn them into a win on November 4th, he must be willing to fight to the political death if need be for the sake of victory. One of the great conservative fears of John McCain as the Republican nominee was the fear that he would not be prepared to take the fight to the opposition, something that he must do to great effect in order to be elected.
John McCain's willingness to fight for this election in the coming days with everything he has will show us whether he wants to win this election or not.