Looks like John McCain's campaign-by-distraction strategy is continuing to buoy his candidacy. He lowered the bar on expectations significantly by injecting the suspicion that he was ill-prepared and dodging the debates, then he leapt over it with heavy makeup, a neat comb-over and a combination of condescension and name-dropping that was intended to frame decades worth of failed Republican policies as the right "experience."
Unfortunately, Obama crashed in the middle of a stellar performance, essentially yielding a tie. He was clearly and effectively communicating about the inequitable burden the bailout plan would place on most regular Americans, but when the conversation turned to foreign policy he was not aggressive enough in refuting McCain's hawkish, neoconservative ideas. He also failed to link the billions of dollars being wasted on the war back to the present financial crisis, which could have brought the momentum back in his favor.
I recently noted on HuffPost that Obama has an Al Gore problem. He is a professor and intellectual who needs to resonate with undecided voters using simple concepts on a visceral level. He also needs to find a way to weave policy specifics through the pedagogy of hope, so that long-time supporters and critics can be satiated with the substance of his offerings while new voters can still be inspired.
Now that the Palin circus will resume its touring schedule next week in anticipation of Thursday's veep debate (after conveniently hiding out during tonight's post-game interviews), the baton will fall to Biden to reenergize the Democratic ticket.
The thing Obama and Democrats have going for us is the last eight years. McCain may have shown up ready to play tonight, but the fact remains that America has been governed under Republican principles for almost a decade, and they've tanked the nation. Under their watch, we have been attacked. Our military strength has been overextended and undermined to the point where a neutralized foe like Russia can invade a sovereign nation while we do nothing. Our economy has collapsed. We've alienated our allies around the world. All of which combined has sabotaged our vision for domestic progress and stifled the American dream.
Voters will not forget this on Nov. 4, and Barack Obama remains the only real change agent on the ballot.