Trail Mix: The Final Debate

Eighteen days and counting, Obama maintains the lead

didn’t add up. And the more McCain has to focus on states that he thought he had in his bag to begin with, the more difficult it will be to get there, Berman adds.

“Obama has done to McCain what he did to Hillary Clinton: He’s out-organized and out-strategized both of them. Here is this guy whose resume in terms of experience doesn’t compare to either but has demonstrated something that is pretty extraordinary in politics,” Berman says. “He figured out how to neutralize his inexperience against two formidable challengers, one in the Democratic primaries and one in the general election, through organization and grassroots efforts and the resonance of his message Tanner also agrees that the campaign is looking pretty dismal for McCain. He says the Republican base, which only a few weeks ago felt energized by the addition of Gov. Sarah Palin to the ticket, is feeling demoralized again because they keep hearing their side is losing, and McCain’s performance on the campaign trail has been a reflection of those sentiments. Temperament has also become a central theme of the presidential campaign.

“Obama has looked very presidential and very cool in a crisis. I’m not sure how that will wear in the long term, but for election purposes it looks very good. When people are scared, he’s very reassuring,” Tanner says. McCain, on the other hand, appears to feel entitled to the presidency, he’s mad that he’s losing, and it shows. “He looks at all that he’s done in his life, from the POW days to Congress to the Senate, and feels this, by right, should be his job. It’s also why he’s never had a theme for his campaign, but the American people are saying that that’s not enough.”

Recent economic events have forced the candidates to focus more on the voters than each other, and that’s good news for voters, Galston says. “The American people now have a reasonably good basis for comparing them, not just as individuals but as the leaders of parties that prescribe to very different agendas.”

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