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McCain vs. Obama: Back-and-forth

The New York Times notes that McCain raced through the economic portion of his stump speech to get to the main portion of it -- which was blasting Obama. "'Who is the real Senator Obama?' Mr. McCain asked in an increasingly sharp tone in Ohio, as Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska stood to his side. 'Is he the candidate who promises to cut middle-class taxes, or the politician who voted to raise middle-class taxes? Is he the candidate who talks about regulation or the politician who took money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and turned a blind eye as they ran our economy into a ditch?'"

Video: John McCain says that his experience in government and life would make him a more reliable leader for America, and a better commander in chief.

"Mr. McCain has never been comfortable talking about the economy, and in these final weeks of his nearly two-year, second-time quest of the presidency, with polls showing him losing increasing ground to Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain and his advisers have made the calculation that negative attacks will move at least some voters. Certainly those attacks pump up crowds on the campaign trail, where it is the sharp criticism of Mr. Obama, rather than Mr. McCain's once-over comments on the economy, that draw the biggest, loudest response from the conservative and almost all-white crowds that come to see Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin."

A separate Times article notices that Obama began his speech yesterday with some pessimistic observations before coming around to the optimism. "Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, told thousands of people at a rally here that America was 'at a moment of great uncertainty.' He used the words 'significant drop,' 'anxiety,' 'crisis' and 'worse' all in his second sentence. He explained why the credit markets were frozen, and in plainspoken language described how automobile plants were closing because people could not get car loans, how savings for college and retirement were 'disappearing.'"

More: "In short, Mr. Obama continues to promise that everything will get better once he is president, but does not explain how his programs and governing philosophy will adjust to new economic realities. He said Wednesday that Americans needed to unite to avoid "a dark and painful recession," even though many economists say that a recession has already begun, and that pain may be inevitable."

"McCain returned to the campaign trail yesterday with new emphasis on a domestic agenda that appeared designed in part to address the concerns of white women, a crucial voting bloc that has moved steadily in recent weeks toward his rival, Barack Obama," the Boston Globe writes. "After his second debate with Obama on Tuesday night, McCain and running mate Sarah Palin held events in Pennsylvania and Ohio where he stressed healthcare and homeownership - both issues that women, especially independent white women, have cited as important in their choice of a candidate." Obama, meanwhile, has been running ads focused on health care and targeting McCain. 
The debate was the 10th most watched of all time and the most watched since 1992.

The McCain campaign still isn't putting any real money behind its Ayers hit on Obama. It has released a Web video instead.

Karl Rove has his take on the debate and the post-debate environment: "Each faces a big challenge. Mr. McCain's is that events have tilted the field towards Mr. Obama. To win, Mr. McCain must demonstrate he stands for responsible conservative change, while portraying Mr. Obama as an out-of-the-mainstream liberal not ready to be president. Mr. Obama's test is that voters haven't shaken deep concerns about his lack of qualifications. Having accomplished virtually nothing in his three years in the Senate except to win the Democratic nomination, Mr. Obama must show he is up to the job. Voters like him, conditions favor him, yet he has not closed the sale. He may be approaching the finish line with that mixture of lassitude and insouciance he displayed in the spring against Mrs. Clinton."

"But here's a warning sign for Mr. Obama. Of recent candidates, only Michael Dukakis in 1988 has had a larger percentage of voters tell pollsters they believe he lacks the necessary qualifications to be president."