To win the third debate Wed eve., Barack Obama must remain steady, calm consistent. He must also sound and appear presidential, all things he has already done.
Obama also must be prepared to respond in full force to kidney punching character attacks from John McCain. Part of Obama’s recent surge in the tacking polls, I believe, is the result of his responding with assertive strength to McCain’s reckless changes. He shouldn’t stop now, nor should he be lulled into complacency by McCain’s recent efforts to temper his own audiences who have been calling for Obama’s head. McCain’s efforts to temper his own crowds have been tactical (the result of senate candidate complaints that his stridency is diminishing their campaigns); they are not a sudden triumph of conscience, which means he could reverse course at any moment.
It is difficult to say what McCain needs to do to win the debate because it appears his campaign sffers from exhaustion, and is operating on instinct alone rather than ideas and strategy.
If McCain fails to attack Obama he disappoints his red meat seeking base; if he goes after Obama after saying for the past few days that Obama is a decent family man, he would appear hypocritical and erratic.
Similarly, if he takes a positive path, the inconsistency of that message would appear erratic considering his flesh eating behavior during the last several weeks. Finally, one final attempt to start the “straight talk express,” would hardly be taken seriously even by once hardy supporters who now would see it as a desperate last minute ploy.
Not sure where this leaves the candidate, which is some cause for concern. The punch from Cassius Clay that floored Sonny Liston decades ago was the one that Liston never saw coming. John McCain is no Muhammad Ali but still, such unknowing should keep Obama on his toes.