10:30 Obama promises his tireless effort -- for the children.
Bob channels his mother and tells us to go out and vote, "it'll make us feel big and strong." McCain comes over to Obama immediately, shakes his hand, and says very loudly, "good job, good job." Trying not to show any more contempt, I guess.
10:27 On the special needs issue, while McCain rambles: Jaimee and Sweet Caroline both say that McCain keeps saying that Palin's son has autism, rather than Down's Syndrome. I got the impression that he was trying to speak to special needs generally and autism parents in particular, but I may be wrong on that, and he may have actually flubbed the issue.
I'm also seeing evidence of a huge "gender gap" on the CNN instant-response panels—McCain's horrible "health of the mother" rant has to be a big part of that.
10:27 Final statements: McCain first.
10:19 How many reporters are looking for Joe the Plumber tonight? Who will find him first? UPDATE: Yup.
10:16 ... as a threat to national security? Uh, sure.
10:14 McCain attacks the notion of the "health of the mother," accusing Obama of speaking in code. That's what he's going to go with? He hates the health of mothers? Going down in flames.
10:12 And Obama again, using basic common sense, rebuts the lies. Story of the night.
10:11 McCain spits on equal pay for equal work, accuses Obama of infanticide. Is it smart to make these attacks when Obama's right there next to you and gets to rebut everything you say?
10:10 Obama announces his support for Roe v. Wade, then pivots to Lilly Ledbetter and equal pay for equal work.
10:08 McCain approaches this question as a senator, not as the guy who will actually be making the choice.
10:05 Abortion! But only as a litmus test.
10:04 John McCain says transplants are a Cadillac-style luxury. We think he meant "implants." This is a debacle.
10:03 Why are we still talking about Joe?
10:02 Obama does, in fact, hit health care out of the park.
10:01 Obama lays out his fine: $0. McCain is angry about this.
9:59 Another slow pitch, Obama. $5,000 tax credit. Ridiculously bad policy. This is easy.
9:58 McCain wants to give everybody $5,000 tax credit. Even Joe the Plumber.
9:55 New topic: Health care. Control health-care costs or expand health-care coverage? Naturally, "we can do both."
9:54 Obama on fire with the facts and figures tonight -- he's destroying McCain on the competence gap. McCain, as Kevin Drum says, just lurches from attack to attack.
9:53 Obama continually has to deflect McCain's bullshit. Every exchange has the same flow: McCain says something crazy dishonest, Obama calmly retorts, rinse and reeat.
9:50 McCain calls Obama Clintonian. But is the drill-baby-drill oil dead in the face of the collapsing price of oil? Oil's well under $100 a barrel right now, and under $3 a gallon in a lot of states.
9:48 Obama wins energy, too. This has got to be brutal for McCain supporters to watch.
9:47 McCain refuses to answer another question, gets in a jab that puts him on the wrong side of NAFTA to boot.
9:46 Energy! Climate change! Put Bob Schieffer in charge of every debate.
9:44 Obama pivots back against the spending freeze on the special-needs-family issue. That was deadly.
9:43 McCain: Sarah Palin should be president because she understands special-needs families. Hmm?
9:42 From Christ, I Need A Drink in the comments: "I have to say, I'm liking Bob Schieffer as moderator a heck of a lot more than Brokaw." Me, too.
9:42 "Americans have gotten to know Sarah Palin." Yeah, that's kind of your problem, dude.
9:41 Obama: Biden rocks hard.
9:40 Why would the country be better off if Biden became president than Sarah Palin? (And vice versa.)
9:39 McCain is angrily demanding more details, then pivots back to claiming that *his* focus is on the economy. Obama just laughs.
9:38 McCain's campaign is imploding as we speak. This was a huge tactical mistake for him.
9:36 Obama responds: "Mr. Ayers has become the centerpiece of McCain's campaign." Professor. 40 years ago. Eight years old. Reagan. Presidents of University of Illinois and Northwestern University. Nailed.
ACORN: "Had nothing to do with us."
9:36 ACORN! The fabric of democracy is at state!
9:35 McCain brings up Ayers!
9:33 John McCain's feelings have also been hurt by a number of offensive T-shirts at Obama rallies. What are we talking about here? This is ridiculous.
9:32 McCain: "I'm proud of the people who come to our rallies." Really? Really?
9:31 Obama hits the Palin rallies, hard. McCain continues to look like he's five seconds away from meltdown.
9:30 McCain trying to portray himself as the aggrieved party here is completely absurd. Is anyone buying this?
9:29 McCain looks like he's about to blow his top.
9:27 Obama also hurt McCain's feelings w.r.t. to public financing. Obama says that the American public doesn't care about McCain's hurt feelings, and hell yes to that.
9:26 Now McCain accuses John Lewis of hurting his feelings. Poor guy.
9:25 McCain says that Obama should have accepted the town halls. What a loser.
9:24 Where's the high road? Will you say to each other's face what you've said in your ads?
9:22 "When have you ever stood up to your party?" Obama starts listing off Democratic constituencies he's pissed off. Interesting response, not necessarily what I would have gone with. Then he starts to list areas in which McCain and Bush are indistinguishable—that response I like.
9:21 McCain declares he's not President Bush. Interesting. I did not know that.
9:20 The one-half-of-one-percent line is better than a hard number, though.
9:19 Damnit, Obama, just say it:
9:18 McCain is having a terrible night, already. Rambling, constantly off-message -- he looks like he's about to burst.
9:17 McCain hits this spending freeze nonsense again. Obama, it's a soft-pitch over the plate: YOU DON'T CUT SPENDING IN A RECESSION.
9:16 Amazingly, McCain *doesn't* want to talk about spending. He's back to talking about houses. Even Bob won't stand for it.
9:15 While they talk about the same boring stuff for the third boring time, here's a post on the rules from Ben Smith, with some interesting consequences on whether it makes sense for McCain to go negative tonight:
"It's a huge mistake in a sit-down debate to attack or be snarky," he said. He said that talking about an opponent's negatives can be done if the moderator prompts it, "but to self generate it is very difficult in a sit-down debate"9:13 Bob mercifully saves us from the tax bullshit. Unfortunately, it's only to plunge us deep into the spending bullshit.
"It would be a big mistake for McCain do do the Ayers stuff, the Acorn stuff," he said.
9:11 Sweet Caroline is sick of Joe the Plumber already. So say we all.
9:10 McCain calls Obama a communist -- Obama wants to "spread the wealth around." Calls Obama a tax-raiser again, for the millionth time.
9:09 Obama: "Joe's been watching some ads of Sen. McCain's. Here's what I'm actually gonna do." The audience laughs—it's a good line.
9:07 McCain tries to play a random swing voter against Obama, promising some guy named Joe he'll help him buy a business. Just 100,000,000 more voters to go.
9:06 Obama hits his usual points, talking directly to the camera with his four principles for the economy.
The problem with these debates, incidentally, has been that neither of them is really able to disagree with the other about the big issue -- "fix the economy" -- and so the discussion immediately dissolves into platitudes.
9:05 McCain plays his usual 'X is in the hospital tonight' card -- tonight it's Nancy Reagan -- and then immediately begins to ramble.
He also said "Freddie Mae," but that's neither here nor there.
9:03 How will you fix the stock market?
9:02 Oh, good, they're both sitting tonight. That'll keep the energy up.
9:00 Here we go. There's a lot of anticipation that tonight is the night that McCain either goes massively negative OR completely loses his shit, or perhaps both. Meanwhile, I find this tidbit from Ezra Klein intriguing:
Campbell Brown just said that John McCain called Hillary Clinton for debate advice today. Huh.Maaaaaybe she wasn't the best person to call.
Debate #3 liveblog!