Amid polls showing Barack Obama in the lead, a number of political commentators saw last night's presidential debate as one of John McCain's last opportunities to revive his prospects for victory. As the Wall Street Journal put it, "Behind in the polls with less than three weeks before Election Day," McCain "needed a boost" to dramatically alter the dynamics of the race. By that standard, many media analysts concluded McCain lost last night, even as they judged his performance as his strongest of all three debates. The AP, for example, reports that McCain "won the last debate of the 2008 campaign," but "that may not be enough." Similarly, the Washington Post says on its front page that while "this debate may have been McCain's strongest performance of the three...it was also an example of how Obama has used the encounters to try to show that he has not only the knowledge of the issues, but also the temperament and the judgment voters are looking for in a successor to President Bush." And "in the end, given the overwhelming desire for change in the country, that may be enough to keep him in the driver's seat."
Others echoed that theme. The Los Angeles Times says that "although McCain's performance seemed more spirited than in the two previous debates, the Republican appeared unlikely to reverse his steady downhill slide in recent polls." The Hill makes a similar point in a story headlined "Analysis: McCain's Best Likely Not Good Enough." The Politico's Roger Simon headlines his story "McCain Fails, Obama Is Not Rattled," and writes, "Debates should not be confused with trips to Lourdes: Few miracles are dispensed." In an analysis, Long Island Newsday says that McCain "finally found a voice" last night, but he "needed a solid performance like this to win over voters in the first debate, not the last, when Obama is showing signs of pulling away from McCain in the national polls. In short, it just looked like too little, too late." Writing on 'The Fix' blog on the website of the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza says that McCain "did not score the knockout blow that many Republicans had hoped but he did land several solid body shots."
Even conservative commentators seemed to agree. On MSNBC, Pat Buchanan said, "Overall, I do believe this was John McCain's best of the campaign. I think he clearly won it on points. It was his best performance. He was intense and ideological. And he's appealing to the base, clearly. But, at the same time, Barack Obama was even cooler than he's been in the other two debates. And I think he realizes, this is a winning formula." On ABC, George Will said, "I don't think John McCain shifted the tide." On CBS, Dan Bartlett said, "The bottom line is...days are running out for John McCain."
Another major media theme is that while McCain launched an aggressive assault on Obama, Obama successfully countered him by remaining unruffled. On Fox News, Brit Hume said, McCain seemed to be the man on the attack. Senator Obama seemed content to handle the attacks and deliver a counterpunch." The New York Times says McCain was "hoping to goad Mr. Obama into an outburst or a mistake that would alter the shape of the race in its last three weeks" but Obama "remained calm, cool and collected for the most part," and that's "all Mr. Obama really needed to do."
Bush Line Wins Praise. One particularly line from McCain is receiving praise this morning. In his Washington Post column, TV critic Tom Shales focuses on McCain's statement that "I'm not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago" and calls it "the best line of the night." On ABC, Matthew Dowd said that line "should have been the premise of the beginning of his campaign, where he can point out time and time again of why he isn't President Bush." On Bloomberg, Lindsey Arendt said, "Well, clearly McCain had the most memorable lines of the night."
References To "Joe The Plumber" Seen As Effective McCain Tactic Joe Wurzlebacher, the Toledo plumber who quizzed Barack Obama at a campaign event about the impact of his tax proposals, was a major focus of the debate. On NBC, Brian Williams said, "Joe the plumber has now replaced Joe Six-Pack as the figurative leader of the demographic group that politicians so often talk about. And at times talk down to." On ABC, George Stephanopoulos noted Wurzelbacher "wants to buy a plumbing business, there is the picture right there that is worth about $250,000-$280,000. And he's worried that Obama is going to raise his taxes because he is going to raise taxes on people who are in small business earning over $250,000. I think the fact that John McCain was able to make Joe Wurzelbacher a character in this campaign, I'll bet we're going to see him in ads, starting tomorrow, shows that, why this was his best debate so far. He was able to set the agenda on a lot of issues like taxes."
Obama Favored In Post-Debate Polls On CBS, Katie Couric said, "To get an idea of what voters around the country thought of tonight's debate, CBS News has done an instant poll with the help of Knowledge Networks." The survey, of 507 uncommitted voters, found 22% saying McCain won the debate, while 53% saw Obama winning and 24% said it was a tie. CBS added, "Of the uncommitted voters who took part in the survey, twice as many said they" now "are committed to Obama. 14% said McCain after the debate. 28% Barack Obama. 58% still uncommitted." On its website, CBS News reports additional poll results. CNN reports 58% of those surveyed in its post-debate poll said Obama won the debate, while 31% said McCain won. The Politico reports that its Politico/InsiderAdvantage "nationwide survey of undecided debate-watchers" showed a much closer contest 49% said Obama won, versus 46% who said McCain did.
Sen. Barack Obama continues to lead Sen. John McCain in all national polls, though the margin of his lead varies significantly. The Diageo/Hotline daily presidential tracking poll of 823 likely voters taken October 12-14 shows Obama leading McCain 49%-41%.
The George Washington University/Battleground tracking poll of 1,000 likely voters taken October 8-9 and 12-14 shows Obama leading McCain 51%-43%.
The Gallup daily presidential tracking poll of 2,785 registered voters taken October 12-14 shows Obama leading McCain 50%-43% among registered voters. Gallup also has two likely voter models one (based on past voting behavior and current intention to vote) shows Obama leading McCain 49%-46%, while the second (based on current intention to vote) shows Obama up 52%-44%.
A Pew Research poll of 1,278 registered voters taken October 9-12 shows Obama leading McCain 50%-40% among registered voters and 49%-42% among likely voters.
The Rasmussen Reports automated daily presidential tracking poll for October 15 shows Obama leading McCain 50%-45%, the same as the previous two days.
The C-Span/Zogby daily presidential tracking poll of 1,208 likely voters taken October 12-15 shows Obama leading McCain by 49%-44%.
The Investor's Business Daily /TIPP tracking poll of 872 likely voters taken October 9-14 shows Obama leading McCain 45%-42%.
Obama Up In Two Florida Polls A CNN /Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll of 765 likely Florida voters taken October 11-14 shows Obama leading McCain 51%-46%. An Insider Advantage /Poll Position survey of 612 likely Florida voters taken October 13 shows Obama leading McCain 48%-44%.
Obama Up 4 In Colorado A CNN /Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll of 762 likely Colorado voters taken October 11-14 shows Obama leading McCain 51%-47%.
Obama Up 10 In Virginia A CNN /Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll of 698 likely Virginia voters taken October 11-14 shows Obama leading McCain 53%-43%.
Obama Leads By 2 In North Carolina An Insider Advantage /Poll Position survey of 474 likely North Carolina voters taken October 13 shows Obama leading McCain 48%-46%.
Obama Tops McCain By 3 In Nevada An Insider Advantage /Poll Position survey of 506 likely Nevada voters taken October 13 shows Obama leading McCain 49%-46%.
McCain Up 1 In Missouri A CNN /Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll of 763 likely Missouri voters taken October 11-14 shows McCain leading Obama 49%-48%.
McCain Leads By 2 In West Virginia An Insider Advantage /Poll Position survey of 522 likely West Virginia voters taken October 13 shows McCain leading Obama 49%-47%.
McCain Up 6 In Georgia A CNN /Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll of 718 likely Georgia voters taken October 11-14 shows McCain leading Obama 51%-45%.
Obama Up 13 In New Mexico A Rasmussen Reports automated poll of 700 likely New Mexico voters taken October 13 shows Obama leading McCain 55%-42%.
Obama Up 24 In Massachusetts A SurveyUSA automated poll of 624 likely Massachusetts voters taken October 13-14 for WBZ-TV Boston shows Obama leading McCain 59%-35%.
McCain Leads By 13 In Kansas A Rasmussen Reports automated poll of 500 likely Kansas voters taken October 13 shows McCain leading Obama 54%-41%.
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Media reports are casting yesterday's dramatic stock market plunge as evidence that the economy is set for a potentially severe recession. The AP says "a stream of disheartening data convinced Wall Street that a recession, if not already here, is inevitable. The market's despair propelled the Dow Jones industrials down 733 points to their second-largest point loss ever," to close at 8,578. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 90.17, or 9.03 percent, to 907.84, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 150.68, or 8.47 percent, to 1,628.33." This morning, the New York Times reports "the economy is in trouble and the recession may be longer and deeper than initially feared."
The story led all three network newscasts. ABC World News said "more and more, the talk on Wall Street these days is not whether we're in a recession, but how long it will last." In a follow-up piece, ABC World News said "this could be the most serious recession in decades. And that means life as most Americans know it is about to change. In some cases, dramatically." The CBS Evening News reported that "any way you add up" the new reports on retail sales "equal a recession. ... The numbers are the first hard evidence of how bad it's gonna be and they weren't pretty." NBC Nightly News said "there simply is not a lot of good economic news. In fact, there are many predictions we are all in for a nasty recession."
The Financial Times attributes the markets' slide to "fresh concerns that the vast government intervention in the financial system may not be enough to stem the credit crisis," in addition to persistent concerns that "it had in any case come too late to prevent severe and long-lasting recession." The Wall Street Journal reports, "The session's drop rekindled debate on Wall Street about whether last week's lows will hold up. Increasingly, it seems the record 936-point gain registered by the Dow Jones Industrial Average Monday wasn't enough to put the market on sure footing." The New York Times, under the headline "Markets Suffer As Investors Weigh Relentless Trouble," the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today run similar reports.
Bernanke: Recovery Won't Come "Right Away." The Financial Times refers to "growing evidence that the worldwide bank rescue plans have come too late to avert a deep global recession," and notes that "Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, warned that even if bank rescue plans succeeded in stabilising financial markets 'broader economic recovery will not happen right away.'" Bernanke "said the US economy had been deteriorating even before the latest intensification of the financial crisis with 'marked slowdowns in consumer spending, business investment and the labour market.'" The Wall Street Journal reports Bernanke "kept the door open to further interest rate cuts, saying policymakers will keeping using 'all the tools at our disposal' to restore stability in financial markets." The New York Times, meanwhile, reports Bernanke also said "federal officials had armed themselves with 'the tools we need to respond with the necessary force to these challenges.'" The Fed chairman said "Americans can be confident that every resource is being brought to bear to address the current crisis."
McClatchy notes that after Bernanke's speech the Fed "released its Beige Book, a report from its 12 district banks on economic conditions around the country. All 12 reported worsening conditions, yet another indicator that the economy appears to be in recession."
Amid concerns from conservatives about his plan to partially nationalize key US banks, the AP reports President Bush "said Wednesday he's against government taking part ownership in private businesses, but that it's necessary this time - for a while. 'In the long run it's not good for the country,' he said." Speaking "in this traditional election battleground state" of Michigan, Bush said "he agreed with critics who don't want the government owning private enterprises. But he said the administration's bank rescue plan was needed to help the nation through the economic crisis." AFP notes Bush also "joined fellow leaders of Group of Eight rich nations to issue a joint statement saying they planned to hold an emergency summit with other key countries on the global financial meltdown 'in the near future.'" Bush's "message to the jittery US public and global markets in upheaval came as some critics, notably on the right flank of his Republican party, warned against what they charge is excessive government intervention in the market."
The New York Times also reports the story, while The Hill notes Bush "convened a meeting of his Cabinet Wednesday morning to lay out the 'extraordinary' measures the government has taken in recent days to try and halt the ongoing financial crisis."
New Stimulus Plan Begins Forming In Congress. The Los Angeles Times reports that amid "fresh signs that the nation is in recession -- and yet another jaw-dropping decline in the stock market -- Congress is gearing up to enact a new economic stimulus plan to help ordinary Americans." But getting "quick bipartisan agreement and White House support to help consumers is far from certain. The battle could be even tougher than the one that played out last month over the $700-billion rescue plan for the financial system." Democrats and Republicans "have starkly different views of what a stimulus package should contain, and President Bush has signaled his opposition to some of the key ideas being floated."
FDIC Chairman Says Feds Not Doing Enough On Foreclosures. The Wall Street Journal reports in a front page story that Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair "on Wednesday criticized the federal government for failing to take more aggressive steps to prevent Americans from losing their homes, highlighting a rift between her and other senior U.S. officials over terms of the $700 billion rescue package." In an interview, Bair said the "government plan will help stabilize financial markets but it doesn't do enough to address home foreclosures, the root of the crisis."
After days of contradictory reports, the AP says this morning that "US and Iraqi negotiators have agreed on a draft security pact that would govern the presence of American troops in Iraq after January, Bush administration officials say, but its final approval is far from certain." The draft agreement "calls for US troops to pull out of Iraqi cities by the end of June next year and leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011, unless the Baghdad government asks them to stay. It also includes a compromise on the biggest bone of contention: legal immunity for American forces, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity." The New York Times, reporting from Baghdad, notes that "an Iraqi government spokesman" said yesterday that "Iraqi negotiators are reviewing a revised draft," which "while far from final, indicates that the Iraqis are inching closer to final approval." The spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, "said the draft includes a previously discussed timeline for the withdrawal of American combat troops, with the troops moving out of Iraq's cities and towns by the middle of next summer and leaving the country in 2011."
The AP also reports from Baghdad that under the agreement, "Iraqi officials familiar with the accord" said, US troops "could face trial before Iraqi courts for major crimes committed off base and when not on missions." It would also "give the Iraqis a greater role in US military operations and full control of the Green Zone." Meanwhile, "a senior Iraqi official said Baghdad may demand even more concessions before the draft is submitted to parliament for a final decision." The developments were also noted briefly by the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post in reports on the death of a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader.
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Jay Leno: "And tonight was the very last presidential debate. So you know what that means? Prayer does work."
Jay Leno: "And Barack Obama continues to lead in the polls. Barack said today if it wasn't for Fox News, he might be up two or three more points in the polls. So apparently, five of the six news channel openly rooting for him isn't enough."
Jay Leno: "Well, the market went down over 700 points today. Oh, that reminds me. You know, we turn our clocks back soon. We're turning it back to 1929, I believe."
Jay Leno: "Vice President Dick Cheney was treated, today, for an irregular heartbeat. His doctors aren't sure what caused it. They figured it was either stress or the sudden drop in oil prices."
Jay Leno: "Well, doctors now say drinking alcohol may shrink your brain. ... Their proof -- the last eight years of the White House."
David Letterman: "Hey, ladies and gentlemen, I got an update on Vice President Dick Cheney. He was admitted to a hospital earlier today" for an "abnormal heart rhythm. But he's doing fine. He's okay. He's already sitting up, sneering at nurses," and "and he'll be out shooting hunting buddies again soon."
David Letterman: "What" is "exciting" me now are "all these twists and turns and nuances to campaign strategies. For example, tonight, John McCain unveiled his new campaign personality, his new campaign persona -- fighting underdog. ... Now, if that doesn't work, he's going to rogue cop."
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