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Why Is This Man Blinking?

In his third and final presidential debate against Barack Obama, John McCain put on his best performance to date.

Unfortunately for McCain, it wasn't very good.

The good news for the Republican presidential candidate was that he got in a few good shots, and presented his economic views more coherently than he had done previously.

The not-so-much good news was that he smirked, snarled and blinked (at least 3,000 times, according to Someone Without A Life who counted) through 90 minutes of sarcasm, contempt and barely-contained anger aimed at Obama, who alternately sat with the stillness of Buddha or cracked a tolerant smile, as if at a whacky old uncle.

When the deal went down, [the post-debate insta-polls][2] showed the Democratic front-runner had made a clean sweep of the trio of mano-a-mano confrontations staged over the past three weeks. As a political matter, Obama's cool-hand dominance throughout the debate series pushed him past the public threshold test of presidential leadership.

Obama now not only owns a commanding lead in national and key state polls, but also trounces McCain in the three key measures of any campaign:

1) Money Obama's internet operation has revolutionized campaign fund raising, and he is outspending McCain in the TV air wars in crucial battleground states by factors of three and four-to-one. And he's not done yet: his October fund raising is on pace to shatter all records, while McCain limps along on public financing.

2) Organization The long and bitter Democratic campaign waged against Hillary Clinton is now paying dividends for Obama, as he has superior ground and get-out-the-vote operations in virtually every state that's still in play.

3) Message Obama has smoothly adapted his change message to a political landscape radically transformed by the seismic shaking of the global financial crisis, putting forth a "rescue package for the middle class" that he explained clearly, simply and forcefully last night. McCain has spent the weeks since the economic meltdown began by flailing and floundering for a clear message, which far too often devolved into yet more, increasingly ineffective character attacks on Obama.

Bottom line: After nearly five months of fierce campaigning between the two, the shape of the presidential race is what it was when the candidates captured their parties's nominations a referendum on Obama. It's O's race to lose, and he shows no sign that he's likely to do that.

[2]: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/15/who-won-the-last-debate-o_n_135066.html<a href

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