Last presidential debate ends, will the spread narrow?

October 16, 2008

The third and final presidential debate is over after intense sparring between Republican hopeful John McCain and rtx9lnj.jpgDemocratic contender Barack Obama.

Have voters heard enough from the two candidates? McCain has been falling behind in recent polls, was he able to close the gap or was Obama able to solidify his lead?

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

watching the debate the second time i was surprised to see how many times Mccain called out Obahma for his reckless spending. He set up good themes to take the lead. Like stating Obahma still has not said what the penalty to small business will be if they don’t offer OBAMA mandated Health care (which by the way the reason people will be able to keep there employer health care is because OBAMA will penalize them if the choose not too. He has businesses with a double edjed sword. Oh well they will just have to lay people off or reduce salaries. At first I was dissapointed but watching it again McCain did make Obama grimmace and do his the grinch who stole money from the haves to give to the have not’s grin……take that

If we were to base our voting decision on those debates, Obama has successfully projected himself as a leader with views and answers that appeared sincere and well understood with shown ability to maintain his calm persona even when attacked personally.
In contrast McCain lacked depth, was repeating the same messages time and again as if he was reading a short script and seeing the third debate he also positioned himself as “petty” by trying to score small unimportant personal points. In short, a President designate and a Senator for life.

Posted by John Mantikas | Report as abusive

McCain went off the deep end when he started to talk about Lewis, it was all downhill for him from there. Obama won because he got to the majority of the independants.

Posted by Todd | Report as abusive

I think both had some pretty good points. McCain hammering reform over more spending was appreciated. I just don’t think McCain stands for the right kind of reform. I don’t believe he will actually enact that reform if elected. Obama exaggerates a bit too, but I believe he will be able to change more than McCain will.

McCain’s temper really showed through in some very tense moments. He really seemed to have trouble keeping himself in check in this little debate, with the melodramatic eye rolls and fidgiting and such. I wonder what will happen if he is elected and meets another country’s leader. Obama was calm throughout, even his smile when he disagreed wasn’t full of the malice McCain’s seemed to be.

The “Joe the Plumber” shtick was a little silly for both of them. If plumbers make 250K, I’m in the wrong business.

While I appreciate all the service McCain has done for this country, I don’t think he’s the best man out of the two for the job. I’ll be voting for Obama, and I hope he wins.

Posted by Michael Shaw | Report as abusive

So happy to see this many people calling it like it was: McCain just kept on his bitter attacks, but he never rattled Obama’s nerves. This will backfire on him even further and widen Obama’s gap. This debate reminded me of just how old McCain looks and acts. At 72, he would be the oldest President to ever take office (Regan was 68). I wanted nothing more than to reach through the screen and wipe that bitter, sarcastic smirk off his face. Obama has youth and energy on his side, not to mention his unfaltering, level-headed demeanor. The candidates are always going to tell you the same things: they will never raise taxes, and their foreign policy and healthcare plans are far superior to their opponent’s. We will never really know until they are elected and their policies are put into place. So having said that, I am putting allot of weight on personality, character and age.

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

Sen. Obama trounced Sen. McCain in this debate, just as he did in all of the previous ones. I am proud to support Sen. Obama for President. Tomorrow, I will vote early and beat the long lines of Obama supporters who will no doubt fill the polling stations across the US come November 4th.

Posted by Jeremy | Report as abusive

John Mccain effectively killed his own campaign in this debate. America is fighting for its life and all he can think of is attacking every word Obama mentions. He looked like he was gonna have a heart attack. I ain’t an american but knowing that every action of the US president affects the whole world, i am not sure he is what America need right now. With debts of 10trillions and the republicans bleeding money in Iraq and ensuring the growth of the heroin tarde and taliban in Afghanistan, the only mistake America can make right now is not getting rid of the republicans. So many other nations will take over the role of global superpower, shoudl the republicans stay in power.

China has a $1trillion reserves and counting; the EU offers a more balanced alternative to america in terms of diplomacy, global prowess and fence building; the arabs are sitting on almost perhaps $1-2trillions. And america/george bush/John Mccain are still bleeding $10billion a month i Iraq alone!

Anyoen who thinks of continuing with this by electing appointing John Mccain is either brain dead, a die in the wool republican(sic war monger) or a racist who has issues with voting for some one who happens to be non-european american.

Posted by Kuru | Report as abusive

Obama’s health care, tax and educational plans and views on abortion sounded good for me. For sure that is what common people want. McCain does not understand middle class, giving tax breaks for big companies leaves them enough money to spend more on Golf, Private Jets and Fashion than creating more jobs. Its time for America to think seriously.

Posted by cna | Report as abusive

As a foreigner, one has to admire the United States : a land of opportunity for those willing to work hard and take risks, a great pioneer spirit, a patriotic nation willing to sacrifice when needed, an environment conducive to innovation and the betterment of oneself, etc.

However, from the outside looking in, there seems to be two important ingredients missing for the longer term balanced development of this survival-of-the-fittest society : a minimal amount of social solidarity and safeguards against excessive behaviour.

• Indeed, no society can aspire to long term harmony if increasingly large portions of its people are left on the sidelines to struggle under the poverty line. Social unrest eventually ensues, as history has repeatedly illustrated in many developed countries.
• Again, no long term equilibrium if the many are not protected from the potential excesses of the few. The prevailing US real estate and financial crisis is a vivid reminder of this.

The more conservative minds in the US will cry foul at these two notions : socialist dogma for the first, bigger government, government interventionism or over-regulation for the second. The proponents of these ideals are derogatively labelled “liberals” in your country.

I hail from France and have always prided myself to support political parties from the right side of the aisle. The socialist left in France is forever accusing the right of being raving-mad …… “liberals”.

Terminology is a funny thing !! So I went to the dictionary to get a better handle of the meaning the term and found quite a few definitions. Below are a few samples :

-Adjective :
1. favourable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs
2. favourable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties
3. pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies
4. free from prejudice or bigotry
5. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
6. characterized by generosity

Now, that’s MY kind of “liberal” !!

The French right wing “liberals”, in power during most of the post WWII area, have lorded over a society which is considered by the opposition on the left as outrageously capitalistic, but yet enjoys high quality universal healthcare, free schools and universities for all, second-to-none rail and road infrastructures, etc.

I hear Mr. Obama often labelled as a closet socialist. Yet his policies could still be considered to the right of the right in France. So where does that place Mr. McCain’s ? And where have extremists on the right led their nations in history ? The US got a front row seat in the 20th century when it came across the pond to rescue Europe from two such regimes. And where has it led the US when its home-grown neo-conservatives were at the helm ? To Iraq, where it had no business going in the first place.

So, Mr. Obama is definitely MY kind of “liberal” !! Pray that he should be so for a majority of Americans !!

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

Obama won, yes!!!

Posted by Joao doNascimento | Report as abusive

I watched the debate outside US with great curiosity. I think the delivery and body language of Obama were more presidential.McCain seemed to be agressive and arogant which do not fit a president.Even President Bush look gentle.– A.N.A

Obama clearly won all the debates, hands down.

On all three occasions McCain came across as a nasty, angry, bitter old man – contemptuous and negative. America does not need a President with these attributes, coupled with the same policies of the Bush doctrine that has brought America to the abyss.

McCain certainly looks like a heart attack waiting to happen, and with Palin waiting in the wings it would be a complete joke and huge embarrassment to the USA and the world at large.

Roll on November 4th – let’s get the inevitable over with and allow Barrack Obama to start selecting his cabinet members and forming a new government in January 2009. It is a pity it cannot happen sooner.

Posted by Alex Esterhase | Report as abusive

I am voting for relief for the middle class. The 95% of folks that know how many houses they own.

I am voting a big F U to the rednecks with the racist Curious George t-shirts.

I am voting for Obama.

Great debate, like the die hard McCain post out here. Most saying he won or angry he didn’t. I counted them, its about 5%, lol.

Posted by Stephen Burke | Report as abusive

We all hope for a better America, that we can enjoy our homes and see our children grow up safe and secure. The politics of fear and hate are effective but I sincerely hope that America has matured enough to ignore the hate-mongers and vote for what we feel is best.

The policies of the Republican party make sense from a distance but have not worked for over 20 years now. It was once referred to as “trickle-down” and now we toss aroung deregulation, but the effect is the same.

Allowing business to grow is extremely important but we cannot embrace that point and ignore the state of the middle class. The theory that a free market will take care of itself relies on big business’s honesty and their willingness to spread around the wealth. We have seen neither.

I am afraid what we are witnessing is the awful fact that people are people and won’t be honest or share willingly. Deregulation results in the rich getting richer and the eventual elimination of the middle class.

We unfortunately need government intervention to keep the market free and balanced and to make sure that the middle class (who pay for most of what we have) does not disappear. Big business will not willingly “trickle-down” anything. To the contrary they just pay their executives more extreme salaries and post obscene profits while the rest of us struggle.

I believe it’s time to level the playing field. We’ve paid for it.


Posted by EdAInWestOC | Report as abusive

The difference between the candidates could not be more
stark than what was shown last night. A cool and collected
demeanor from Obama and an erratic, parsing and somewhat
angry McCain, both talking about their differences on the
topics raised.
Clearly, McCain lost decisively on the evening, though he
was stronger in his delivery than the two previous debates.

I will be voting for Obama because of the many issues that
face this country that need to be met with a new direction.
John McCain has been a Senator for two decades and has
never been a vocal opponent of the GOP agenda that the
current administration has stuck this nation with.
No matter what McCain has stated during this campaign,
he has embraced the Bush Administration in all it’s
aspects, and NEVER spoke out against the massive mistakes
that Bush and cronies have made.

Posted by ronald | Report as abusive

Obama clearly one the debate! McCain was nervous, confused, and got his words twisted around often in his rebuttals where he jumped right in before his time interrupting Obama. McCain was not Presidential material last night just a grumpy old man. Who cares about “Joe” anyway. I care about the two wars we are raging, homelessness and the economy. November 4th can’t come soon enough for the voters. I voted early last week for Obama/Biden. Interestingly enough I stood in line for 2 1/2 hours with the most diverse crowd I’ve seen since the unemployment line in 2001.

Posted by rose austin | Report as abusive

I think that Senator Obama had a near death experience being in such close proximity to McCain – a man with one foot in the grave and the other in one of his 7 homes.

Posted by Jon | Report as abusive

I would like to comment even though as a permanent resident alien I do not have a vote.
I was glad to see McCain display some passion in this debate. I honestly feel he did well in peeling away some of the layers of fluff that Obama frequently covers himself in.
I think Obama will struggle to lead with conviction and will succumb to the majority views of his party in power.
America is losing a great opportunity for the right kind of change that is needed.
I did not see a Presidential display from Obama. He often was seen nodding in apparent agreement with McCain or was forcing a smile as a defensive mechanism when under attack.
Be afraid America, be very afraid.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

McCain’s best night but as others have said, very condescending and could not sit still. More faces and glares than content. And I am so sick of Joe this, Joe that whether it’s Joe-Sixpack, Joe Plumber…who does McCain think I am? All through the debate I thought, if a plumber makes $250k, he should pay taxes. And no plumber on Earth works 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week. That is typical Rupert Murdock hype and I don’t eat that stuff anymore.

Posted by Steve Horn | Report as abusive

Obama won in my opinion.

I don’t live in the US, but what I don’t understand is why everyone thinks increasing taxes is the devil from both Dem and Rep. Look at the US deficit, look at your debt. For such a right-wing country the US has complete fiscal irresponsibility.

Republicans preach fear about increased government. The lack of government is what allowed the financial system to come crashing to its knees. The US had all the checks and balances after the 1930s to protect the financial system. The obsession in the US to eliminate government from the equation has removed ‘all’ checks in balances over the years since then.

And even after what has happened this week, McCain has some nerve demonizing the increase of government. Just think of the word ‘govern’ment. That is their &^%&% job.

Posted by stretch | Report as abusive

McCain looked pretty desperate when he raised the question of Obama and Ayers. It’s a non-issue and everyone, even McCain supporters, knows it.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive


Does democracy rings you any bells?

It seems you have a problem dealing with it.
I maintain my opinion and position regarding to the debate.

Furthermore, I urge you to, neverthless your right to disagree with me, to be polite.

It seems that you campaining the Dems, and that you’ll do all you can to get waht you want.


Posted by MP | Report as abusive

McCain didn’t say anything. Zero. He had my vote in 2000 but he has nothing to offer now.

Posted by Andrew McKay | Report as abusive

Obama won. No question. On both content and presentation. This guy is very cool under pressure… and I think that is the kind of person who would make a good president. Combine that with his likability, and we get a great president; and we really need one now.

McCain: Wow. I just can’t see how he got to this point. He comes across as confused, except during short periods where he seems to really believe something he is saying. Other wise he seems to spout a mish-mash of slogans. There is more to him I hope, but, sadly, it doesn’t come across.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

I am an immigrant here, and for the last years I have seen this country destroyed by democrats like Obama who was the poster child for ACORN – part of the actual economical crisis. US is all about appearances….”he looked more presidential” …” his demeanor was better” … I DON’T CARE. McCain has a better plan, and Obama is only a better speaker. Obama gives me the feeling I am buying a “preowned car” …he has no substance, and none of his plans are viable or explained in detail….is all lip service. In my book McCain wins.

Posted by John Brad | Report as abusive

“That one” is the winner because he looked cool as he explained the issues and his plans for America. Mr. McCain cannot hide his fustration that a guy called Obama, a junior senator, may become the next President of the United States. I believe by now McCain realizes he wasted three or four weeks of going nowhere with his personal attacks and the stupid selection of Mrs. Palin. McCain will forever regret bringing Karl Rove and his goonies to destroy his very credible campaign.

Posted by Eddie Zalez | Report as abusive

Obama used the debate tonight as an excellent opportunity to explain his programs & policies, point by logical point.
McCain used the debate to attack Obama & parrot the old Bush-Reagan dogma of deregulation that has led us into this current worldwide economic meltdown.

Who won?

Really, McCain sealed his fate tonight by proving himself stale & lacking on policies to bring our country forward.

I’m sure, however, that Obama, as President, will work constructively with McCain and the Republicans to advance our country.

Oh, one more point. Regarding Palin, even John McCain, for all his “praise”, couldn’t bring it over his tongue to state that he considers Palin qualified to be President, were something to happen to him. That’s significant.

Obama said he’ll leave it up to the voters to decide. We have. While it might be fun to drink a Joe-six-pack with her, that’s not what she’s running for. The vast majority of Americans can recognize someone in way over their head, and have no doubts Palin is utterly unqualified for high office.

Obama/Biden are the only candidates qualified and with the right stuff to be running our country come Jan. 20th, 2009.

On Nov. 4th, I will vote for Obama/Biden without any doubts or reservations.

Posted by fbla1805 | Report as abusive

McLost…he was pathetic. Whining about being picked on, give me a break. Time for retirement gramps.

Posted by james | Report as abusive

Obama won, yes!!!

Posted by Akila | Report as abusive

Definition of Insanity…..

Doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result

I say time for a BIG CHANGE!

Obama/Biden ’08

Posted by Cathy | Report as abusive

Obama. The decision is clear. Oh and how many plumbers make $250k in Ohio per year? Should be enough for the fishing boat, gun and a house too. Joe? Get a financial planner.

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

I’m 72 and in pretty good physical and mental condition, my wife however says Iforget things. What is McCain made of since he dare to run for president, he is a nervous rag. That’s my conclusion after watching him during the debate, a blinking winking, face wrinkling old man.
We need a smart man and without doubt some young blood from the generation which is our working women and men right now. GO OBAMA GO, by the way he won the debat by a land slide, so will the final votes go as well.

Posted by Dane | Report as abusive

I maybe wrong, but I think the pundits, the editorial writers, and the media in general– no matter which side of the political spectrum they come from– fail to understand how unsettling and frightening this economic crisis is for many Americans.

Thus, the GOP magic words of “big government”, “lower taxes”, “tax and spend liberal”, “fiscal responsibility” and so on no longer resonate with many voters. Clearly, these words still have impact on the Republican base, but they have become fighting words for Democrats and seem to be becoming “used cars” for independents.

It was either amusing or sad last night to listen to the GOP activists (Bill Bennett et all) on CNN trumpet a McCain victory and they cited as the reasons many of the afore mentioned words– in other words McCain had gotten Obama and made his points. When the polls came out in the other direction they were at a loss to explain except to say the polls were wrong. In my view, these words do not work now and in fact represent (perhaps unfairly) the words of what “got us here”.

Until such time, McCain and his party can come to grips with this– Obama’s march to a landslide is unstoppable.

Posted by Daniel P Richardson | Report as abusive

Not that anyone will read my comment afer all the others, it is just funny to see all the Obama sheep not seeing that both canidates acted like children. Obama was interrupting, sighing, laughing AT mccain, and when he was asked if he would denounce the attacks, he ignored the question. He is an angry angry man that thinks because he is black he DESERVES the presidency. Not that I think mccain is useful but obama berated (as did mccain), he interrupted mid sentance (as mccain did later on) and overall if he was a child, he would have gotten spanked and a time out…

Maybe instead of calling obama the empty suit, we should call his fans that…

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

The first 20 comments or so appear to have been written by the same person(s). Makes me wonder if Obama contines to use ACORN tactics.


Posted by Dana | Report as abusive


Posted by isabelle | Report as abusive

I could care less what any candidates Pastor has to say. I could care less what any candidates religion is.
I could care less what race any candidate is.
I could care less what a candidates middle name is.

I care that Palin comes off as an idiot.
I care that McCain comes off as angry and mean.
I care that McCain/Palin believe in overturning Roe vs. Wade.
I care that I see more War through McCain, and more lower/middle class help with Obama.
I care that if McCain dies at the helm, we get stuck with the Pageant Winner.
I care that if Obama gets whacked, at least we have a level headed Biden to step in.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

Reading some of the comments is comical; it’s like cheering for two last place teams hoping that your team wins and doesn’t come in last. How did it ever come to this? Surely there are more qualified candidates for president than Obama and McCain! Does it really matter which one becomes president? Whoever IS elected will continue to blame the Bush administration for the next four years and why they are not able to pull us out of the mess were are in!

Posted by Bryan | Report as abusive

Obama did act sort of calm, except when he kept interrupting Senator McCain and trying to talk over him. He’s a lawyer, he knows how to talk to the talk. People say he talked more
Presidential– well what is that?

The question is — can he walk the walk?

THe answer is — we don’t know. Obama has no solid record of doing anything he says he’s going to do.

McCain is solid. He does what he says and he says what he does.

I have no doubt that both candidates love and honor the United States of AMerica but I’ve only heard the words from one of them: John McCain.

Posted by Kim | Report as abusive

I’d be careful of putting down any news Network like Obama did. He put down FOX. And he looked like a sniveling child when he did it. I don’t get why he did that because ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and his own Obama Channel on DISHnetwork are all leaning left towards him and obviously bias against Repubs.

Add to that the list of Celebu-supporters and all the millions of $$ he’s thrown into this campaign to smear the other side — I wonder why he’s worried about FOX. I guess I’ll have to go watch it and see what they say.

Posted by Shelia | Report as abusive

I think McCain won. He cornered Obama on several issues, such as taxes, voting records on abortion, unkept campaign promises, etc. Obama either had no good answer or lied in response to those. Here’s why this is good for McCain: he doesn’t have the gobs of money to saturate the air waves with those messages. Obama has money bleeding out his rear-end and didn’t have to attack McCain in the debate because he has a near-infinite supply of money to saturate the air waves with attack ads. This debate was McCain’s best and probably only chance to bring Obama’s record and broken promises to the forefront and he did just that.

On demeanor, body language, and eloquence, Obama definitely performed better. Obama’s good at lying, twisting, and smooth-talking. He also pointed that out a couple times. McCain was clearly frustrated by that, as are many Republicans.

I’ll agree with everyone that the Ayers connection isn’t solid enough to warrant the kind of attention McCain’s campaign has given it.

Posted by David Chin | Report as abusive