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Jacob Heilbrunn Headshot

Let Obama Be Obama In the Debate

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John McCain's campaign is in shambles. His advisers are bickering. He looks like he's finished.
Sound familiar? It's where McCain was in the Republican primary season before he rebounded from the precipice to win the nomination. With polls pegging McCain at some 10 points behind Barack Obama, most commentators are writing him off again.

Not so fast. In an election season as volatile as this one, Obama's supporters should not become overconfident. While the third debate has historically been of little significance, the final stand-off between Obama and McCain offers the chance to finish him and Palin off once and for all. Instead of playing it safe, Obama should go on the offense against McCain tomorrow night, who is bragging to his supporters that he will whip Obama's "you know what." If Obama simply delivers canned lines and fails to deliver a strong message of reform, he could end up taking the McCain campaign off its life-support system.

McCain, who has nothing left to lose, will grossly exaggerate Obama's inexperience and claim that he and the Democrats are single-handedly responsible for the current economic mess. Obama needs to remind voters, again and again, that it is McCain who has failed to push for real reform on government regulation and, by the way, that he knows next to nothing about economics.
Obama does. He should play up the community organizer skills that he honed during his years in Chicago--the very ones that the egregious Sarah Palin scoffed at during her speech at the Republican convention. It's Obama, not McCain, who has hands-on experience with the difficulties that average Americans are experiencing. In recent weeks, Obama, as the British say, has come on song, speaking with real passion and fervor about changing America. Obama's advisors should continue to let Obama be Obama when he squares off against McCain tomorrow.