Watched the last of the presidential debates early on this morning (on Youtube here.)
A lot of it was re-treads of familiar ground, particularly from the first debate. McCain actually did better this time than in earlier rounds. It wasn't that his argument on the economy was particularly strong - it's just that he managed to connect it to a simple example which people could understand. He used a guy called "Joe the plumber", a small businessman Obama met on the campaign trail who was worried about tax increases. Obama should have countered that argument by saying that the US government is massively in deficit, hence someone's got to pay more tax to re-balance the budget (over the business cycle) and it sure as hell ain't gonna be the people at the bottom of the pile. "Joe the plumber" is actually a fair way up the income distribution (is he paying corporate tax or personal income tax? It was never made clear) - so even if he's struggling, he's in a better position to pay than people on lower incomes. Obama did make this point to a certain extent, but it could have been clearer. In general Obama seemed more sluggish than McCain early on, although it evened up as time went on.
The Ayers (ex-Weatherman who Obama was on a school board with) issue was raised by McCain but came off as a bit of a damp squib. The worst bit for McCain was when he was defending the people who came to his meetings - "the finest people in America - war veterans" or some such thing. Does being a war veteran excuse someone being a complete fascist who calls Obama a terrorist? Apparently so if you're John McCain. Obama should have pulled him up on that a bit more.
I think it came off pretty much even Stevens, but the post-debate polls showed that independents were more favourable to Obama. That may be because Obama was more 'centrist' (detractors would say more vague) and less combative, whereas McCain was energising the Republican base but not really getting across to the swing voters. Or it may just have been that people haven't watched the debate and are just backing the person they think is gonna win.
Either way, there is no way this debate was a "game-changer", and it wasn't really worth staying up for, either. Definitely a case of quantity over quality in these debates. Having said that, it's nice to have something of this kind - we don't have anything like this in UK general elections despite frequent attempts to set one up, which is a real shame.