I live-blogged the third presidential debate, and I surely made some mistakes in grammar and spelling (and even fact) as I attempted to follow the exchange. As needed, I'll revise this document later.
6:00 (Pacific): At last, the third debate begins. By most accounts, McCain needs a clear victory -- it would help if Obama announces that he's the Antichrist -- to have a chance in hell of winning in November. You've got to imagine that this election drives McCain nuts: "I'm losing to this guy?" And now these two men prepare to sit at the same table. I wonder whether the candidates' proximity will inspire a civil debate or end with thrown chairs.
6:02: Bob Schieffer starts with today's lousy news from Wall Street.
6:03: McCain bemoans Americans as "innocent victims" who are angry, angry, angry, angry.
6:04: McCain promises to buy bad home mortgages.
6:05: Obama starts (again) with a comparison of our current woes to that Great Depression.
6:06: Obama starts with the need to protect U.S. jobs and reduce taxes before agreeing with McCain that homeowners need help. Problem? Does not want a giveaway to banks.
6:07: Bob Schieffer: "Would you like to ask him a question?" McCain: "Uh, no."
6:08: McCain promises that he's gonna help "Joe the Plumber" live his American dream, pointing at Obama when spitting out the phrase "tax increase."
6:09: Obama attack's McCain's tax breaks for oil companies.
6:10: Good 'ol Joe the Plumber is getting some lovin' tonight!
6:10: McCain claims that we're gonna take Joe's money to spread it around. "Class Warfare" is on. The tanks are taking the streets.
6:11: Obama reminds us that Warren Buffet can pay a few more taxes. Mine would be a good place to start, but it looks like Joe the Plumber is first in line.
6:13: McCain reminds us that the tax rate for businesses is 35%. I'd like to see one big business that actually pays that amount.
6:14: Bob Schieffer asks what programs must be cut during our current economic crisis.
6:14: Obama drifts past the question, talks about pay-as-you-go. No sacrifices at first.
6:15: Obama talks about "investing in America." Yeah, but about that pesky question.
6:16: McCain agrees: Stupid question. Let's talk about the government buying homes!
6:17: McCain plans to create millions of jobs - and launch an across the board spending freeze.
6:18: McCain: "I know how to save billions."
6:19: Obama: Across the board spending freeze. Nice idea. It'll never happen.
6:19: Obama: Earmarks count for one half of one percent of the federal budget.
6:20: McCain: "Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." Line of the night (so far).
6:21: McCain: Points at Obama, mocks "goodies" for the oil companies.
6:22: McCain: "You have to tell me one time you have stood against the leaders of your party."
6:22: Obama responds with tort reform. "An overwhelming vote," McCain mocks.
6:23: Obama: "Even Fox News" disputes a claim made by McCain.
6:23: Obama: "Essentially what you're proposing is eight more years of the same thing."
6:24: McCain: "I've got the scars to prove it." That line represents so much of how McCain has sought to define the "body" of his campaign.
6:25: Bob Schieffer calls both candidates on the tough tenor of their campaign. Then offers a chance to bring it on!
6:25: McCain: If only Obama would have come to my Town Hall debates!
6:26: McCain goes after John Lewis. Hard core! "Senator Obama, you didn't repudiate those remarks."
6:27: McCain: "You didn't keep your word" on public financing. "You didn't tell the American people the truth."
6:28: Obama: "100 percent of your ads have been negative." American people are less concerned about "our hurt feelings" than their pocketbooks.
6:29: Obama: "I don't mind being attacked for the next three weeks," but the American people can't afford four more years.
6:29: Obama is playing it cool.
6:30: McCain may get only one vote, but if it's Joe the Plumber, he'll be OK.
6:31: Obama reminds viewers that Republicans ought to at least shush their supporters who shout "kill him."
6:33: McCain is proud of the folks who come to his rallies. "There's a lot of things that have been yelled at your rallies, Sen. Obama."
6:34: Obama: "We can have a debate back and forth." Um, yeah. That's the idea. Dude, you may be right on ideas, but you're getting your butt kicked by the old fighter pilot.
6:36: Ahhh, time to drag William Ayers into the fray. Have you noticed how many times McCain has said in previous interviews that he doesn't care about some washed up terrorist as much as he cares about Obama's judgment? Personally, I think a real live terrorist is somewhat more threatening to our country than some political candidate (excepting, of course, Sarah Palin, who seems plenty dangerous to me).
6:36: Obama: "Mr. Ayers has become the centerpiece of Sen. McCain's campaign over the last two or three weeks."
6:37: Obama associates Ayers with folks worse than Weathermen: Republicans!
6:38: McCain has a look like he's eating Obama's lunch. The question will be determined according to whether viewers are listening to words or to volume.
6:40: Bob Schieffer asks about the people the candidates will bring into the government. Let's talk running-mates. Tosses a softball: Why is Biden better than Palin? Hmmm. Do you have an hour?
6:41: Obama cites "workin' family." The first Dropped 'G of the night?
6:42: Obama chooses not to mention Palin.
6:43: McCain on Palin: "It's time we had that breath of fresh air."
6:43: McCain: "She's ignited our party." Yep, it's burning down, alright.
6:44: Obama: Yeah, she's a capable, well, she's...hmmm.
6:45: McCain dumps on Joe Biden's "cockamamie" Iraq separation plan.
6:46: McCain: Obama the tax raiser.
6:47: McCain says that only "extreme environmentalists" are concerned with nuclear power being safe.
6:49: Obama is counting the minutes until this debate is over. McCain is dropping the hammer.
6:51: Is talking about the problems with free trade agreements. McCain: "I admire Obama's eloquence." Except for everything he says.
6:52: McCain: Senator Obama, "who has never traveled south of our border," opposes free trade with Columbia. "Maybe you ought to travel down there." Rawr.
6:54: Obama returns to the arms of the auto makers. Time to bolster the Michigan vote. Things didn't go so well when discussing Columbia and Peru.
6:55: McCain brings out the "without precondition" bat, starts swingin'.
6:55: McCain compares Obama to Hoover. Them's Fightin' Words.
6:56: Bob Schieffer asks about controlling health care costs.
6:56: Obama discussing people losing their health insurance: "This will break your heart." No, Senator. This breaks "my" heart. Say it. Feel it. Show that you get it.
6:58: Obama walks through his health care plan. Again.
6:59: McCain inexplicably starts with putting health care records online. Yeah, that'll help those folks who lost their insurance.
6:59: McCain returns to "my old buddy, Joe." This guy ought to get a talk show!
7:00: McCain: "I don't think that Joe right now wants to pay a fine."
7:00: Obama responds to Joe: "Here's your fine: Zero." Nice.
7:01: Wouldn't it be amazing if we just turned this election over to Joe?
7:02: Obama goes after McCain's $5,000 credit. Senator McCain will tax health benefits. "This is your plan, John."
7:03: McCain is waiting. His smile reminds me of that old song, "Mac the Knife."
7:03: McCain: "Hey, Joe, you're rich, congratulations."
7:04: McCain admits: Yes, health benefits will be taxed. Obama should simply repeat McCain's admission over and over again.
7:05: McCain accidentally (?) calls Obama "Senator Government."
7:05: Obama: "That's the choice you'll have," running the risk of losing the employer-based health care system.
7:06: Bob Schieffer asks about Supreme Court nominees and Roe v. Wade.
7:07: McCain sticks it to Obama: "Because you were 'afraid.'" He even uses finger-quote marks. Snarky!
7:08: McCain: Anyone who supports Roe v. Wade is clearly not qualified to serve in the High Court, but he promises no litmus tests.
7:09: Obama walks into abortion quicksand. McCain looks at his opponent with disdain.
7:10: Obama catches a vine out of the trap and talks about equal pay for equal work.
7:11: McCain goes after Obama's "present" votes in Illinois.
7:12: Obama: "If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that's because it's not true." They were (and presumably are) still protected by law.
7:14: Obama returns to abortion-land, searching for common ground. Sure, you'll find that in a one-minute answer.
7:15: McCain puts "health" of the mother in finger-quotes. So much for common ground. Congratulations, Senator. You just jumped off the cliff.
7:16: Bob Schieffer asks about education funding: Why aren't we getting our money's worth?
7:16: Obama answers by restating the latter port of Schieffer's question, before shifting to the money/reform debate: "We need both."
7:18: Obama offers a $4,000 tuition credit for student service to the nation.
7:18: McCain: "There's no doubt that we have achieved equal access to schools in America." Watch out. I think you built a landmine and then stepped on it, Senator.
7:19: McCain whips out a bumper sticker. He's against "throwing money at the problem."
7:20: Schieffer asks about the appropriate role of federal government in education spending.
7:21: Obama notes that the feds "left the money behind" for No Child Left Behind. Clever.
7:22: Obama agrees with McCain on some points. McCain blinks and blinks.
7:23: McCain to Obama: I'm sure you're aware of the school voucher program in D.C. "I'm frankly surprised you didn't pay more attention to that example."
7:25: For some reason McCain is talking about autism again.
7:25: It's a Chinatown moment: Vouchers! Charter Schools! Vouchers!
7:27: McCain: "America needs a new direction." Does anyone remember when it first seemed laughable that the GOP was stealing the mantle of "change" from that upstart Democrat? Seems like a million years ago, doesn't it?
7:28: McCain drops the trust-bomb.
7:29: Obama: "The biggest risk we could take right now is to adopt the same failed policies and the same failed politics that we've seen over the last eight years and somehow expect a different result."
7:30: Obama calls for a spirit of "sacrifice and service and responsibility."
7:31: Debate concludes.
Who won? That's hard to answer. Let's approach it this way: "Who won more for his candidacy?" I'll take that approach because tonight's debate was more about exigency than policy. The exigency, the problem to be overcome, was that McCain had to breathe more life into his candidacy. Obama, in contrast, needed to hold the line against McCain's attacks and maintain his command of the high ground.
From that perspective, I believe that McCain met his goal somewhat more than Obama; he got more out of the night -- at first. In the long run though, he may lose ultimately because of those "quote marks." As folks parse those moments over the next few days, particularly the "life of the mother" issue, McCain may have done more harm for himself than good.
One final thought: I hear that Joe the Plumber is generally supportive of McCain. But think about it: What if Joe the Plumber (Joe Wurzelbacher) had come out after the debate to say that he's voting for Obama? Maybe, just maybe, McCain ought not hand his entire campaign over to one guy.