Tonight (10/15) is the final Presidential Debate for the 2008 election. The format is kind of a "sit down at the lunch table" talk, with Obama and McCain seated side-by-side across from Bob Schieffer. It is considered by many to be the last gasp for McCain; only a good showing here will keep his campaign alive.
The tenor of the McCain campaign has rubbed many people the wrong way, Democrat and Republican. Failing to address racist comments at rallies in a timely fashion, trying to use William Ayers and ACORN as bogeymen to show how unfit Obama is to be President, and Sarah Palin's apparent inability to read a report that condemns here ethical lapses as "no evidence of wrongdoing" -- these are the kinds of things that make it increasingly clear that the McCain camp has lost its way. As their poll numbers trend downward further, the attacks ramp up, become less substantive but more vicious. If you cannot win on merit, win through fear. Karl Rove must be proud.
So what to expect?
From Obama, more of the same. Through the debates and the slew of negative ads, he has maintained his cool demeanor, showing no signs of allowing the needles and arrows of his foes to penetrate. He stands his ground with utter confidence in his message and his destiny. He will deflect each blow as it comes, pressing back with the surety of a fighter who knows how to allow his opponent to expend his energy fruitlessly, all the while unaware of being backed into a corner.
From McCain, more of the same rhetoric, but with a plethora of new "facts" to throw into the fight. He will stick to his guns on Iraq and the economy, and attempt to paint his opponent as out of touch, as someone who cannot be trusted because he consorts with "bad people." McCain will lunge, and lunge, striking with everything he has in his arsenal because he can leave nothing back. This will be his last opportunity and he will push and press. Ultimately, it will leave him vulnerable, because in his haste to bring down Obama, he will reveal parts of his true self which will paint a bleak picture of a McCain presidency.
Ultimately, I doubt that even if McCain brings his "A-game" he will enough strength to wrestle Obama down over any particular topic. He will resort to the low arts, hurling innuendo like hand grenades in the hope it will do enough damage to keep Obama in striking distance. But if he does this, it will have the opposite effect, highlighting the weaknesses in his current character that have been all too evident of late.
John McCain knows in his heart that this is the last battle. If he fails now, there will be no Presidency in his future. He has reached the zenith of his political career and when he loses the election, the plunge to the nadir will be swift and frightening. That thought will no doubt weigh heavily on his mind as the debate begins.