Tonight was the last presidential debate and possibly the last time John McCain could turn things around for himself. It didn't happen. Some say it was his best performance, and maybe it was, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't a game-changing performance. McCain still came off as too angry and erratic, while Barack Obama was "cool, calm, collected" (in the words of Sen. Hillary Clinton). He showed the world-class temperament and mind that people want in their next president to tackle the big issues we have facing us. McCain also made several gaffes I'm hoping get picked up, including saying Obama voted against Justice Breyer (a Clinton appointee!) and, most notable, saying several times Palin dealt with autism when her kid has Down's Syndrome! And again, Obama had great answers on healthcare, negative attacks, etc.
Pundits - desperate for a horse race - called it for McCain. But for the fourth-time in a row, the Obama-Biden ticket won the debate in the public's mind. Obama won the CNN and FOX focus groups of undecideds and by an overwhelming margin in both the CNN (58-31) and CBS (53-22) flash polls (there was some bellyaching from the talking heads about more Democrats having watched the debate, but the internals show that results from just independents matched the overall results). McCain lost popularity and Obama became even more identified as the candidate who shared respondent's values and was the most likable. We'll see if the daily tracking polls match in the next few days as they have after the last three.
With less than three weeks to go, all indicators are pointing to an Obama landslide (with huge gains for Dems in the Senate and House to boot). A long and durable surge in national and battleground state polls, Democratic voter registration advantages and the likelihood of increased turnout of Democratic groups that make any "Bradley effect" (if there is such a thing) negligible, a massive cash advantage, and historical economic indicators are all behind Obama. Plus, early voting has already started in a lot of states (where even in Georgia things look good right now). But we can't stay complacent. We still need to vote, donate, and talk to swing voters to ensure this comes true. Obama need not just win, but win by a landslide. Nothing less will allow us the political capitol to erase the last 8 years from memory.