The Importance Of The Final Presidential Debate

October 14, 2008

In the extremely complicated game of politics, few things are for certain in the subject of strategy, especially the outcome of an already press-plagued presidential race for history — from every standpoint. And when the fact that the race has had arguably the most strings and skeletons attached then ever before is thrown in to the equation, the expression: “Its politics — anything can happen” truly goes literal. 

But in the same sense, the presidential debates have been what many would call the most uneventful part of the campaign, when many bloggers (including me), strategists and the press alike stressed that the debates would do the opposite: setting off major gaffes and swinging the polls. 

And as contradicting as this may sound, I am staying with my prior claim with one event in mind — the final presidential debate. This is because (in a nutshell) McCain must successfully make debate waves or he will lose. 

 Why? The final debate is essentially McCain’s last public  stand against his opponent before the election, and both  campaigns know that McCain does not want to enter an  election with the poll deficit that he has today. 

 And because of this, McCain will have to look for holes to  punch at more now than ever.

Am I suggesting he will attempt to pull off a: Lloyd Bentsen? No, but Bentsen’s “You are no Jack Kennedy” debate stab makes a good strategic point — if McCain intends to win the debate with some sort of effect carried out in the polls, he must not attack Obama in the way that he has but rather all in — with one soundbite. 

If I can refer to one of my famous analogies, McCain’s theoretical sling shot has endless ammuntion and is relatively cheap, but won’t win him anything in the long run, as opposed to an expensive one shot Bazooka — A.K.A a knockout soundbite. 

But does this exist? In my opinion, no. 

If Obama uses the same common sense debate strategy he has been using so far, he will essentially know the above points. And if he does, he will simply prepare for the debate like the previous two — calmly presenting his policies and safely pointing out contradictions and points by McCain. With this strategy, Obama simply saves himself from politically falling on his face.

But also, in doing this, Obama also presents the best defense to the only offense that McCain can throw at him. What do I mean? In short, while McCain is searching for a throw his soundbite through the crowd, Obama has the ability to see McCain’s strategy before it starts — and possibly intercepting the soundbite when it comes. 

So I’ll open this up to the commenters: “Is McCain going to try this, and what would the outcome be?”

29 Responses to “The Importance Of The Final Presidential Debate”

  1. Druid800 Says:

    lets put it this way….

    It is imperative that McCain does not just draw tomorrow night’s debate, does not just win a victory on points, but emerges with a resounding victory, the sort that leaves the spin room gasping for air. Failing that, we are getting into dead girl, live boy territory.

    Unfortunately, I just don’t see it in McCain to pull off an outstanding anything…it’s just not his style. He’s been a champion of mediocrity his entire life…that’s not going to change tomorrow.

  2. pacer521 Says:


    I agree, but that doesn’t go without saying that he can’t try…My point is that the last debate is truly McCain’s last stand, and I think that he probably is going to try what I suggested.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. blackpunkin Says:

    Druid makes an excellent point of McCain being a champion of mediocrity. I don’t expect fireworks, I expect a lot of frustration. Even if McCain wins the election, I’d still like to know what his plans are for the country. I hope more people than myself realize that the debates are not just about hoping someone wins, but also about learning about what might happen if their candidate is not successful.

  4. pacer521 Says:


    I agree. Right now, it is extremely important to learn the candidate’s policies, but this is very rare to see anywhere besides a debate atmosphere, mostly because of the campaigning that is going on right now.

  5. Knarfc Says:

    I tend to agree. How many people are going to take the time to watch this final and undoubtedly boring debate? A few remaining undecided voters, perhaps? A few who missed the earlier debates? A few people who want to hear McCain’s latest idea on how to solve the economic crisis? A few only now interested in voting who have not yet had a chance to hear McCain or Obama speak?

    Everyone else has just about made their decision by now and a boring debate is not going to matter much.

    The one debate with a significantly largeview ship involved Sarah Palin, highlighted by her odd wink-a-link hijinks and her aggressively stated risky strategy not to answer questions.

    She lost, that’s it, the polls for McCain/Palin tanked, and it’s over, at least as far as the debates. Unexpected domestic, economic, or international news excepting, this election is also over. Obama has won (we all still need to vote).

  6. my2bucks Says:

    He can not appear angry or impatient as he had in the first 2 debates. He must come off as clear and intelligent. He has to demonstrate that he is the authority on the economy. Americans have lost confidence in McCain’s ability to understand the economy.

    I don’t think the soundbite will be enough for McCain. He’s been tentative and almost afraid to really challenge Obama. ‘That one’ didn’t play as well as he’d hoped.

    Americans wanted to see if Obama was presidential and he passed. McCain’s test is now even more critical.

    And if he fails, there is always Letterman.

  7. pacer521 Says:


    I guess I can see what you are saying, but I still think that national television is, well, national television. People are going to watch, especially the news outlets, who will then make sure to inform anyone who doesn’t know what happened.

    I also don’t think it is over — really anything can happen. Thanks for the comment.

  8. pacer521 Says:


    I agree, if McCain does come off as angry or impatient, or really anything in the realm of his “that one” quote, it is back to letterman for sure.

    Thanks for the comment and great blog you’ve got there as well.

  9. squirrelwide Says:

    Ha! That’s funny you would say “knockout soundbite”, it almost seems like McCain’s last resort. but honestly I think Obama will just keep his mind set focused on the task at hand and that’s allowing people that are still undecided to get to know him better.

    Oh and thanks for the comment

  10. pacer521 Says:


    Yeah, that’s all Obama really needs to do — “keep his mind set” and he’ll have the common sense to block a soundbite. No problem, and thanks for the comment.

  11. bushgirlsgonewild Says:

    Nice post – but you realize my site is all ‘humor’?

    Well, not to republcians…that’s a tough nut to crack.

  12. pacer521 Says:

    Yeah, that was the point of the comment, I guess no one gets my jokes anymore 😦

    anyways, thanks for the read and comment.

  13. huxbux Says:

    As was alluded to, the final debate is more spectacle then substance. Many voters have soured on McCain and I attribute that almost exclusively to the economic crisis. He is the personification, for many Americans, of the perceived cause for the current crisis. His Republican/Bush ties and his relatively affluent lifestyle indirectly throws him into the “fat cat” camp. He’s “part of the problem, not the solution” as the saying goes.

    I don’t believe any of the presidential or VP debates were points for major voter shifts. McCain’s numbers started to slide in concurrence with the beginning of the economic fallout. The debates certainly didn’t help, but had little punch. Most people, I think, processed the debates as confirmation of preconceived notions about each candidate.

    Barring some miracle economic turn around that involves every “fat cat” and Republican paying off every defaulted mortgage, McCain is doomed to become a notation in presidential election history. And when McCain gets frustrated tomorrow during the debate, it will be precisely because he knows he’s fighting a battle he was predestined to lose a month ago.

  14. 1superdave Says:

    Obama is doing what the great prize fighter mohamid Ali used to do.As he aged to defend his title/ His lead, he would back against the ropes and cover his face with his glows and let his opponet slug away. This stratigy came to be known as the rope-a-dope. He did win severral times like that but wound up with brain damage from to mant blows to the head. Mc cain could land a Knock in the debates, but ultimately it will be up to the judges, and if it’s hasn’t been rigged to badly, ie,acorn then, I take my chances with Joe six pack and the hocky mom.

  15. 1superdave Says:

    Hey! How bout them gas prices!

  16. Alberto Says:

    The way I see it, this debate will probably consist of a lot more attacks, and McCain’s only hope is to capitalize on the latest media attacks on the Obama campaign.

    Chances are, McCain probably won’t be able to make that strong of a case since Obama already knows that he has to defend himself against the allegations.

  17. pacer521 Says:


    I agree that the debates have almost no substance, rather spectacle. But I also think that a lot of people still watch them armed with a pen or computer who can make a difference after. So my point is that the debates are in fact vital in case of a huge gaffe or quote.

    I do agree that the economy has given McCain more of shock than all of the debates combined, and it is (in my opinion) obviously more important than the debates.

    thanks for leaving a comment.

  18. pacer521 Says:


    A lovey sentiment, but I don’t think that Obama will be backing against the ropes this debate, rather going 65 or 70 percent forward and taking his turn at maybe 35 or 30 percent on defense.

    I think the effect of McCain’s attack depends more on the attack itself than what the pundits think about it, but as I stated in the post, that will play a huge factor.

    How about those Dodgers?

  19. pacer521 Says:


    I don’t know what media attacks the Obama campaign has recently sent out. I have seen multiple youtube web ads and television ads from liberal organizations, but nothing out of the doors of the Obama campaign.

    But I think that McCain can try to capitalize by defending his running mate’s multiple bill ayers and acorn attacks, but doing that successfully will prove to be a daunting task, mostly because the MSM is getting to be against negative campaigning recently.

  20. jlv0628 Says:

    Pacer, definitely agree.

    McCain needs to, as you put it, try to focus in on the opportunity for that one, glorious soundbite. But I don’t think he’ll have that opportunity. Barack Obama knows that McCain’s supporters are asking for him to get rough. It was apparent after that “I’m going to kick his you know what” comment. Obama is no doubt going to be on his toes. And John McCain doesn’t have anything he hasn’t already said. Ayers, ACORN, both, it doesn’t matter, Obama will have himself covered.

    Thanks for the comment, great post.

  21. pacer521 Says:

    Thanks for the compliments.

    I agree, I think he’ll attempt for a big soundbite, but to pull it off successfully in a both short term and long term standpoint, he’ll need a miracle. He’s got quite a lot against him. Thanks for the view and comment!

  22. Chad Day Says:

    The need for a knockout punch is rooted in McCain’s strategy leading up to the debate this past week. He has been cornered into promising an aggressive attack by those in his party and the increasingly abrasive crowds at his campaign stops. This has changed the frame from “Will McCain come out swinging?” to “Will he swing hard enough and land the ones that count?”

    For live-blogging tonight visit

  23. pacer521 Says:

    Chad Day,

    I agree, and thanks for the comment. I’ll check out your link for live blogging tonight.

  24. Left-Eyed Jack Says:

    I don’t think that old man has the mustard to pull it off. He is visibly floundering before our eyes, and the American People know it. The taking down of Obama by McCain at this point requires a delicate dance for someone who is coming off like a mean old man. The only dance that John McCain seems to have left is the Cotton Eyed Joe, and I’ll call BULL****

    I have confidence that my man, “No Drama Obama” will win the last round by a TKO!

  25. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but what difference does it really make?

    McCain could clean Barry’s clock over and over. He could get the soundbite of a life time and it just wouldn’t matter.

    The media would ignore it, therefor the average non-political junkie type sitting in their living rooms absorbing their daily ration of Olbermann will not be moved. Will not be swayed.

    Obama could spit on kids and kick puppies at a 4th of July parade and the media would still think his poopeth smells like roses.

    If his bottom feeding anti-Ameri-KKK-a, racist, terrorist, commie friends aren’t enough to lose him this race….If his complete lack of preparation, experience and success in any of his endeavors doesn’t do it…Nor his socialist foreign and domestic programs… can’t end his reign…well not a damn this McCain says will make a hill of beans.

  26. pacer521 Says:


    I disagree, a big soundbite would in fact make a big difference. Whatever happens to either candidate, as long as it is big, the press will and can make as big as they want it.

  27. Hi Pacer521,
    I am actually not home this week but away on a trip with – well, I have to admit it – Republicans. But the reasons for their lack of support of Obama are very interesting. The overt reason expressed is fear of higher taxes. These are people who don’t have to worry a whole lot about money but aren’t interested in sharing it with people less fortunate. That’s not how I think, but I get that. But when I try to argue that it has actually been under the Republican administration that the debt has gone up, government spending has gone up, etc., other excuses come out. What does this say to me? That it isn’t *really* about the issues; that it’s fear of a black guy being president. I.e., is he going to start taxing everybody to the hilt to help out poor blacks? (bottom line: black, can’t be trusted not to do that.) That’s what I think I’m hearing. Not many people seem to believe that intelligence “trumps” “blackness”. Prejudice and in-group/out-group thinking is pretty ingrained. I don’t know if rationality has a chance for a lot of people. But certainly you are into thoughtfulness and analysis – there’s hope out there!!! Thanks for being an oasis of sanity on my trip!!!

  28. Kevin Robles Says:

    I think he doesn’t want to, but he is going to. If he wants to be president and have a chance, he has to throw a knockout punch. The tricky part is figuring out what that knockout punch is. Anyhow, I will be having a live-blog session during the debate. If anybody is interested, go to


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