Last night, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama had the first of their three debates. Frankly, I thought that both came across well. McCain kept true to his theme that Obama lacked the experience and wisdom necessary to be the President, Obama responded by arguing that for all of his supposed judgment, McCain had come down on the wrong side of many issues. Both scored points, but neither delivered a knockout blow. Media reports are all over the place; some have McCain as the winner (http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=PluckPersona&U=3a86a5c341684631abb59d87c02a2df8&plckController=PersonaBlog&plckScript=personaScript&plckElementId=personaDest&plckPersonaPage=BlogViewPost&plckPostId=Blog%3a3a86a5c341684631abb59d87c02a2df8Post%3aec9d034f-e49d-4a39-9420-976a206ad4a6&plckCommentSortOrder=TimeStampAscending&sid=sitelife.desmoinesregister.com), others saw an Obama win (http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1845114,00.html).
Here's the problem for John McCain: He trails in the polls, and more importantly, he trails in the majority of the so-called battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. In those states where he is leading, i is generally within the margin of error and he has not made any inroads into any of the leads that Obama has held in those states where the Democratic nominee is leading. In fact, Obama has been slowly but steadily increasing his leads.
So, ultimately, John McCain can't afford ties in the debates. He needs wins. BIG wins. Last night, his first chance to get one went by the boards. Now, the attention will turn to next Thursday's Vice-Presidential debate. The bump that Sarah Palin gave the Republican ticket has worn off, and this will be her first real chance to try to regain the momentum. Given the way the campaign is playing out, this could very well represent the last, best chance for the Republicans to keep the White House in 2009.