October 16, 2008
By Linda Feldmann
John McCain brought an aggressive game face to the final presidential debate Wednesday night, putting his Democratic rival for the presidency, Barack Obama, on the defensive.
But in his trademark style, Senator Obama kept his cool, smiling at times as Senator McCain unloaded on him. Obama’s answers were calm and lawyerly. The Illinois senator did not hurt himself, and thus remains the odds-on favorite to win in November. His average national lead in major polls has grown to more than seven percentage points, and he is ahead in several states that voted Republican four years ago.
Still, the race is by no means over, and McCain clearly came to Hofstra University, the debate site, with some points to make. Most memorably, he announced that he was fed up with being lashed to the side of the unpopular president, George W. Bush, and made the starkest break with him yet: “Senator Obama, I am not President Bush,” he asserted. “If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.” . . .
Obama’s ability to keep his cool under fire – and not attack back – “should certainly have an initial positive for Obama,” says Ben Voth, a forensics expert at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The question is whether any lingering doubts would creep in later.”
Mr. Voth also says McCain’s “base of supporters were probably satisfied that he did venture into the aggressive waters they wanted him to.”
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