To utilize a trite, overused sports analogy this election season, it is third and long in the fourth quarter for John McCain. Barack Obama has settled into his “prevent defense,” and McCain needs a couple of scores to have a chance of winning. McCain’s biggest opportunity will come in Wednesday’s final debate, and he needs a sharp performance that exceeds his first two in match-ups against Obama.
The second debate, in particular, was a disaster for McCain, marked by a sudden proposal to purchase $300 billion in residential mortgages and his flippant reference to Obama as “that one.” He also missed several opportunities to score big points that a skilled debater would have seized. For instance, when Obama set forth his opposition to consumer interstate insurance options, he referred to what lawyers call “the race to the bottom,” explaining how insurance companies would flock to the least regulated state, just as corporations gravitate towards Delaware. McCain should have responded: “I am glad that you mention Delaware, since we are talking about corporate greed and deregulation. Who is the senior senator from Delaware?”
McCain also lost a chance to hit Obama on his contradictory foreign policy, whereby he thinks the U.S. has a moral obligation to intervene against totalitarian, oppressive regimes but still opposed deposing Saddam Hussein’s murderous dictatorship. And when Obama talked about how courageously our troops in battle have performed, McCain should have demanded an explanation on the “air-raiding villages and killing innocent civilians” comment.
In addition to capitalizing more effectively on Obama’s mistakes, McCain must articulate several things in the final debate. McCain, thus far, has failed to explain to Americans the implications of an Obama presidency coupled with a solid Democratic majority in Congress, including a potentially filibuster-proof Senate. When Obama tells voters that he will not raise taxes for anyone making less than $250,000, McCain should ask whether he can promise Americans that he will veto any Nancy Pelosi bill that raises taxes.
While voters might mistrust Republicans at the moment, given eight years of the Bush administration and the Wall Street meltdown, an Obama victory would establish a government far more Left-leaning than most Americans want or realize. It is crucial for McCain to emphasize this.