9.55 So we’re forty minutes in, and we’re onto free trade , and there’ something resembling a new encounter. McCain hacks into Obamas alleged antipathy to free trade, slating his failure to sign the colombia free trade agreement. Obama notes that this was because killing trade union leaders was standard business practice in colombia and there was no attempt to modify that.

Senator Obama has never gone south of the border, McCain, says so he doesn’t know about free trade.

There was a great comeback to that for Obama – ive been to Ohio, I know all about free trade, but he doesnt use it.

10.01pm Then we get onto health care, and McCain talks down the barrel to Joe the plumber again about Obama’s plan to fine ‘small businesses’ for not providing health care. God Joe is coming to be like this guy in Recount, the one vote whos going to decide the election.

Lots of argy bargy about the details of health care, which clarifies things, but not much. McCain sticks to the big government thang and Obama decides not to rise to bait and say that govt has a role in it, and sticks to employers care.

First weird misspeak – McCain calls Obama ‘Senator Government’.

10.10pm Roe vs Wade comes up. McCain says he would never apply a litmus test to supreme court justices, and that might mean a pro-abortion judge. That will get some strife from the right.

Obama defends roe vs wade on privacy rights grounds, and steers off the court thing into the issue itself pushing for support on the actual thing itself

McCain comes back round on Obama’s Chicago votes, we’ve heard this all before. It gives Obama a chance to clarify why he didnt support those laws about late term abortions and partial birth, talking about the health of the mother…

10.14pm McCain replies with air quotes around ‘the life of the mother’ – thats been stretched he says. Sounds brutal and will play badly. May even have been McCain’s gaffe of the night.

10.17pm. Final question on how crap US education is. Obama gets onto the issue of college costs and I couldnt hear the rest of it for whooping. Gives a very wonkish answer about early childhood etc. Constrained about talking about charter (ie private) sschools by need to keep teacher unions sweet?

10.21 McCain comes in hard on charter schools and then gets onto government is the problem….and then says that you don’t need teachers to have all these fancy certification degrees ….which is very very weird….teechers shuld be dumberer

Obama gets off a couple of good but old shots about ‘no child left behind…’ …’they left the money behind’…. Senator McCain’s advisor said college funding was pandering to interest groups…i dont think americas youth are an interest groups….i think theyre our future

10.26 Bogging down in vouchers and special needs poor little autism babies says McCain etc. Should Obama point out that hes going to underfund them? Maybe best not to and he doesn’t

Closing remarks come up.

McCain lost the coin toss and goes first. Blah blah guff about government and spending – myself I just dont think that govt stuff works, its the market theyre worried about – and service of his family and hed quite like to serve again can i please be president

Obama sounds much better right from the get go talking about the serious problems we face, and what we have to do, the way America has to be reconstructed and how we can all work together on this, and believe in the american people again. ITs much much better and sounds presidential.

The score – McCain was punchier but more scattered, and he commanded the rhetorical field with his Joe the plumber stuff, before Obama started to get it back onto more general. Obama passed up every opportunity to punch hard which yes in this context seemed wise.

Once again Obama won by not losing. McCain lost by getting a draw even a slight win. And I reckon the ‘life of the mother’ air quotes are good for anothr tranche of female voters moving to Obama, and that thing about teachers not needing training. He’s hitting wrong notes, I suspect, the old navy flyer fighting the last war/campaign but two or three.

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