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What they’re saying: Debate No. 3

Political analysts generally see Sen. John McCain as having turned in his best performance of the three presidential debates Thursday night, yet say Sen. Barack Obama did what he needed to do as the current front-runner. As Mark Preston, CNN’s political editor, put it: “While McCain was more assertive and clearer in stating his policies in this debate than in the two previous head-to-head meetings, the Republican nominee did not deliver a “game changer” needed to turn momentum back towards his direction.”

Another theme is prevalent in next-day analyses as well: the overt attempt by each candidate to appeal to average Americans. As Susan Page of USA Today noted, “It was all about ‘Joe the Plumber,’ ” with the two candidates “vying for the affections not only of the average Joe generally, but of a particular Joe — Joe Wurzelbacher, a plumber from Holland, Ohio.”

Here is a selection of analyses and commentaries on Wednesday night’s third and final 2008 presidential debate.

Mark Preston, CNN: “McCain comes out swinging, but no game changer”

Dan Balz, Washington Post:
“Aggressive Underdog vs. Cool Counterpuncher”

Susan Page, USA Today: “McCain more cutting; Obama low-key”

Sam Youngman, The Hill:
“McCain’s best likely not good enough”

John F. Harris & Jim Vandehei, Politico: “Debate III: Edgy McCain sheds no new light”

Byron York, National Review: ” ‘I Am Not President Bush.’ At the Hofstra debate, the simple sentence it took John McCain two years to utter.”

Suzanne Garment, Forbes: “The third debate”

Polling results:

CBS Poll: “Obama has edge in final debate”

CNN/Opinion Research Corp.:
“Debate watchers say Obama wins”

Politico: “Obama leads in 3 of 4 key Bush counties”

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