A friend of mine e-mailed a really grainy picture of McCain's strange post-debate convulsion that I think he literally took off his TV. Thanks to Hunter for a high res version. Seriously, what is this?
Update [2008-10-16 2:38:22 by Todd Beeton]:A-ha, just watched it back on DVR and what happened was that at the end of the debate McCain was a little confused about which side of the desk to go around to thank Bob Schieffer. McCain, you see, was walking around to his right, just as Schieffer was walking to his left, so McCain stopped mid-walk, made this face where he stuck out his tongue as though to say "d'oh, which way am I going!?" and then turned back the other way to greet Schieffer. Unfortunately for McCain there are these things nowadays that capture still images. Of course, McCain can't be too thrilled with this new fangled thingy we call "video" either.
Update [2008-10-16 2:48:54 by Todd Beeton]:Just watched the very awkward final post-debate moments after the episode documented above. John McCain really didn't know what to do with himself up on that stage before the wives got up there, and then once they did, McCain almost ignored Cindy to say hi to Michelle, in a transparent attempt to make a wrong from the last debate right. But what was even weirder was that as he looked out on the audience, he stuck out his tongue again, as sort of an awkward greeting. What a strange nervous tick. Steven Colbert has hysterically documented McCain's "tongue jut" and Nate Silver has thoroughly analyzed it but this was beyond your average "tongue jut." This was something altogether different. Any theories are welcome.
Once again, John McCain starts out practically hugging Barack, looking him right in the eye and then sitting down and scribbling notes.
Wow, McCain is really nervous starting out.
Update [2008-10-15 22:8:27 by Todd Beeton]:Oh lord, McCain is touting the gang of 14. He does make a good point that he voted for Souter and Ginsberg. "Elections have consequences." Interesting.
Update [2008-10-15 22:13:56 by Todd Beeton]:By bringing up the Lily Ledbetter Act, Barack managed to bring even a question about the Supreme Court back to people's priorities.
Man, look at the gender gap on the CNN focus group as McCain is attacking Obama on choice. Devastating for McCain. He's really losing women. Or women are simply pre-disposed against him.
Update [2008-10-15 22:20:26 by Todd Beeton]:What is up with McCain's eye rolls and his snarls? Someone's going to have fun with YouTube tonight.
Update [2008-10-15 22:30:55 by Todd Beeton]:Second time in a row McCain can't seem to bring himself to refer to Michelle Obama by her name. The first time it was fine, but twice? Does he not remember her name or is he being old school respectful?
Update [2008-10-15 22:30:55 by Todd Beeton]:McCain: "We'll find the money to research autism..." Not with a spending freeze you won't. Cognitive dissonance anyone?
Update [2008-10-15 22:30:55 by Todd Beeton]:McCain's closing remarks are hardly registering on the CNN focus group dials. Once again, no mention of the middle class.
Update [2008-10-15 22:30:55 by Todd Beeton]:Men are not loving Barack's closing statement either. Ouch.
Update [2008-10-15 22:30:55 by Todd Beeton]:Oh, OK, he had them at "tax relief."
Update [2008-10-15 22:32:13 by Todd Beeton]:"Good job! Good job! Good job!" What the creepy hell was that?
Early in 2007, just as her husband launched his presidential bid, Cindy McCain decided to resolve an old problem -- the lack of cellular telephone coverage on her remote 15-acre ranch near Sedona, nestled deep in a tree-lined canyon called Hidden Valley.
By the time Sen. John McCain's presidential bid was in full swing this summer, the ranch had wireless coverage from the two cellular companies most often used by campaign staff -- Verizon Wireless and AT&T. [...]
Over the course of the past year, Cindy McCain had offered land for a permanent cell tower and Verizon embarked on an expensive process to meet her needs, hiring contractors and seeking county land-use permits even though few people other than the McCains would benefit from the tower.
Ethics lawyers said Cindy McCain's dealings with the wireless companies stand out because Sen. John McCain is a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry. He has been a leading advocate for industry-backed legislation, fighting regulations and taxes on telecommunications services.
I sort of doubt Shieffer will ask him about it but if he does, I'm sure McCain will find some way to blame it on Obama.
Tonight at 9pm Eastern, Barack Obama and John McCain will face off for their third and final debate at Hofstra University in Hampstead, New York. The rules and format look fairly similar to the first except that they will be seated at a table with Bob Schieffer (no wandering around the set for McCain? Damn!) and they'll get to give 90 second closing statements. Another difference: this debate will focus exclusively on economic and domestic issues.
I think it's safe to say that expectations at this point are pretty low for McCain who has proven himself a less than capable debater, especially against Barack "iceman" Obama. As for what McCain's tack tonight will be, he has famously said both that he intends to "whip Barack's you know what" and that Obama can expect that Ayers will come up. But the people surrounding McCain have various versions of what to expect tonight.
"In starker terms than any previous debate, the country will be able to see the difference between Barack Obama's brand of leadership and John McCain's record of reforming government, working across the aisle and delivering for America," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said. "It will be a more spirited debate than the other three because the stakes are higher and both candidates are going to be eager to explore their differences."
In an interview on NBC's "Today" show this morning, McCain spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace said the senator from Arizona would focus tonight on what she called "the truth about Barack Obama's plan for raising taxes" and his pursuit of other "liberal" policies. "Barack Obama is measuring the drapes," she declared. "He and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are planning a liberal Democratic takeover of our economy." She referred to the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader.
"I think Sen. McCain... will say not that you don't know Barack Obama but you do," Castellanos said. "He's going to tax. He's going to spend. What happens if Democrats in Washington and a Democratic president get together and spend and tax without restraint, with no one to stop them -- no adult supervision?
"Make the case that's relevant to voters," Castellanos added. "Talk about risk that way but don't talk about risk... 20 years ago."
In other words, all over the map.
As for Obama's pre-debate talking points, well that's easy since they were leaked to press earlier today (Ben Smith has them.) Much of them focus on the message that "McCain is erratic, Obama is steady" but they also make clear that Obama is going to use the debate to promote his new Rescue Plan for the Middle Class.
* Over the course of the campaign, Barack Obama has laid out a set of policies that will grow our middle class and strengthen our economy.
* But he knows we face an immediate economic emergency that requires urgent action -- on top of the plans he's already laid out -- to help workers and families and communities struggling right now.
* That's why Barack Obama is introducing a comprehensive four-part Rescue Plan for the Middle Class -- to immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities, and help struggling homeowners.
* This is a plan that can and should be implemented immediately.
* Obama has shown steady leadership during this crisis and offered concrete solutions to move the country forward and his Rescue Plan for the Middle Class builds on the plans to strengthen the economy and rebuild the middle class that he's laid out over the course of this campaign.
As for which John McCain will show up tonight, I've long since given up trying to predict that although I think we can safely predict that, if his debate prep consultants have anything to say about it, he'll be doing a lot more looking both Barack Obama and the audience at home in the eye and he'll probably say "middle class" about as much as he usually says "my friends."
Update [2008-10-15 19:0:11 by Todd Beeton]:More from David Axelrod.