POLITICS
11/17/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Peggy Noonan: Palin's Failin'

"Sometimes the leak is so bad that even a plumber can't fix it." This was the concise summation of a cable political strategist the other day, after the third and final presidential debate. That sounds about right, and yet the race in its final days retains a feeling of dynamism. I think it is going to burst open or tighten, not just mosey along. I can well imagine hearing, the day after Election Day, a lot of "You won't believe it but I was literally in line at the polling station when I decided."

John McCain won the debate, and he did it by making the case more effectively than he has in the past that Barack Obama will raise taxes, when "now, of all times in America, we need to cut people's taxes." He also scored Mr. Obama on his eloquence, using it against him more effectively than Hillary Clinton ever did. When she said he was "just words," it sounded like a bitter complaint. Mr. McCain made it a charge: Young man, you attempt to obscure truth with the mellifluous power of your words. From Mrs. Clinton it sounded jealous, but when Mr. McCain said it, you looked at Mr. Obama and wondered if you'd just heard something that was true. For the first time, Mr. Obama's unruffled demeanor didn't really work for him. His cool made him seem hidden.

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