The Los Angeles Times: "John McCain and Barack Obama tussled over taxes, diplomacy and personal judgment in an often testy debate Tuesday night that featured none of the raw character attacks that have lately dominated the presidential campaign. After another day of plunging fortunes on Wall Street, the two candidates picked up where their last encounter left off. Obama blamed the nation's economic woes on the Bush administration -- aided and abetted, he suggested, by the Republican senator from Arizona."
USA Today's Page notes that McCain campaign was eager to use the town hall format -- McCain's favorite -- to change the contours of the race. But the evening was less freewheeling than most town halls -- the campaigns negotiated rules that set time limits and discouraged follow-ups -- and most of the back-and-forth echoed the candidates' stump speeches and TV ads. Ninety minutes later, there had been no big flubs or knockout punches by either man, nothing that signaled the sort of 'game changer' that McCain needed at a time Obama is rising in polls nationwide and in key states."
The New York Times: "The gravity of the moment and the somber setting -- a town-hall-style meeting in front of 80 selected voters who, when not asking questions, watched in silence, not applauding or laughing -- produced an often stifled encounter, largely absent of dramatic confrontations or the personal exchanges that dominated the campaign over the past several days. There was no indication that the debate did anything to change the course of a campaign that appeared to be moving in Mr. Obama's direction."
"Mr. McCain chose not to use the evening -- the second of three scheduled debates -- to attack Mr. Obama's background or character. But in a moment that caught the attention of people in both parties, he appeared agitated in criticizing Mr. Obama for a Senate vote he cast, referring to his opponent only as 'that one.'"
The Washington Post: "McCain used the debate to promote another approach to solving the economic crisis, saying he would have the government buy up bad mortgages and renegotiate them at the current lower housing values, thereby allowing struggling homeowners to remain in their homes. He argued that until the housing markets stabilize, the economy will continue to falter, and he sought to use the idea to demonstrate his independence from the Bush administration… The Obama campaign called the mortgage idea 'old news,' saying that a similar Treasury Department program is already underway as part of the economic rescue package and that Obama backed it."
The McCain campaign released this Web video after the debate, highlighting McCain's conversation with a Navy veteran last night. "Everything I ever learned about leadership I learned from a chief petty officer, and I thank you. And I thank you my friend, thanks for serving."
And the Obama camp released this TV ad.
ANNCR: John McCain on health care…
MCCAIN: I want to give every American a 5,000 dollar refundable tax credit.
ANNC: Here's the truth:
OBAMA: He says that he's going to give you a 5,000 dollar tax credit. What he doesn't tell you is that he's going to tax your employer based health care benefits, for the first time ever…so what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away.
ANNCR: John McCain… instead of fixing health care, he wants to tax it.