Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This, My Friends, Won't Rescue Him

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This, My Friends, Won't Rescue Him

Article excerpt


Third time lucky, or at least luckier. John McCain drew the first debate, lost the second and is now limping to the finish line in 20 days time as the official underdog.

He got off to a solid start nailing the Obama accusation that he is a political son of Bush. "I'm not President Bush: if you wanted to run against him you should have done it four years ago." But not being Mr Bush is not enough now. The Republican began with the disadvantage of a hamstersized lump on one side of the mouth, muffling his speaking. Woe to the candidate in a US debate who encounters dental misfortune.

Mr Obama's hair has been shorn savagely neat, emphasising the largest ears in international politics.

He affected polite interest in the anchorman, then stared down the barrel of a camera. His trademark combination of ease, steamrollering logic and tinge of evasion was intact.

On power of argument, this was

McCain's best performance yet. He was driven, focused and often harder-edged than his rival. He almost abandoned his nervous tick appeal to "my friends" (though couldn't resist one "my buddy").

We met Joe the Plumber, one of those ghostly members of the public who have the misfortune to meet a candidate one day, and turn into fodder for the campaign. A very long argument ensued about the impact of the respective health care plans on Joe and his employees.

Name-dropping is catching. By the end of it, Mr Obama was featuring him by name in the Democrat candidates answers too: "So here is what I am saying to you, Joe." Somewhere out there in a swing state is one bewildered plumber.

Neither candidate had a strong story to tell on the financial crisis: no stellar performance from Mr

Obama here. But crucially, Mr McCain looked uncomfortable, testy and thin-skinned. …

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