Liveblogging the last debate

Clear win for Obama.

McCain. Angry angry angry. Greed. Fannie and Freddie.

Obama blows him away.

McCain: small business – Joe the Plumber – is going to be hurt by Obama’s tax proposal.

Obama now blowing him away.

McCain: you’re a class warrior.

Schieffer asks the idiot “What would you cut?” question that all multimillionaire moderators think they ought to ask.

Obama replies that there’s a difference between consumption and investment. Ethic of responsibility.

McCain can’t stop himself from that silly grin or from repeating “I know how” constantly. The “overhead projector” again.

Is there a single point McCain has made tonight he hasn’t made a dozen times before, and in exactly the same words? Someone must have told him to keep doing what he’s been doing all along. For a guy who needed a game-changer tonight, he hasn’t changed much.

Schieffer asks the idiot moral equivalency question about dirty campaigns.

McCain says it’s Obama’s fault for not doing town halls. Jumps on John Lewis. Doesn’t rise to the challenge on Ayers. Calls Obama a liar and a promise-breaker on campaign finance, which no actual voter cares about.

Obama hits back, then says that he can take the attacks but the country needs a discussion about real issues.

McCain finally comes up with Ayers and ACORN. Obama blows him away. McCain is babbling. The folks I’m with are laughing out loud.

Q about VP candidates. Obama manages to turn it back to fighting for the middle class. Never mentions Palin. McCain lavishes praise on Palin. She cares about special-needs kids. [Didn’t pick it up at the time, but McCain seems to think that autism and Down Syndrome are the same thing.]

Obama points out that an across-the-board funding freeze would eliminate any chance to spend more on special-needs kids.

McCain says Biden has made mistakes on foreign policy, then tacks back to spend spend spend tax tax tax.

Q How much would you cut energy imports in your first term?

Both refuse to answer question, talking about 8-10 years.

Only one President on the stage tonight.

McCain can’t keep himself from condescending to Obama. Herbert Hoover again. Obama is laughing.

Health care: cost v. coverage. Obama opts for both, does a good quick exposition of his health plan.

“McCain’s being really bitchy tonight,” says one of the people I’m with.

McCain accuses Obama of wanting to fine small businesses who don’t provide health insurance for employees. Obama points out that his plan exempts small businesses. McCain looks dazed. Then repeats charge Obama just refuted.

Q on Roe v.Wade. McC opposes, Obama supports. Could you imagine nominating someone who disagreed with you?

McCain says no litmus test, but of course anyone who supports Roe v. Wade can’t be a strict constructionist. (!) Obama comes out with a strong defense of the right to choose. HIts McCain on the Ledbetter sex-pay-discrimination case. McC raises the born-alive question and late-term abortion. Obama gives what seems to me a convincing response. Prevent unintended pregnancy. McCain scoffs at the health of the mother.

Q: what about education?

Obama: resources and reform. Early childhood. College access. Parents have to step up and turn off the TV set.

The thirty people too out of touch to know who they’re voting for who are drawing those squiggly lines at the bottom of the screen seem to love Obama: especially the women.

Obama has some gray in his hair: is that make-up, or has the campaign aged him? In any case, the decision not to take that gray out was a wise one.

McCain is just intolerably rude. Everything about him screams “Cranky old man.” Clash on vouchers. No blood drawn.

McCain closer. He doesn’t look good or sound good. Decent close on the theme of service to the country. He manages to avoid that horrible grin of satisfaction.

Obama: biggest risk is more of the same. Need parties to come together. Spirit of sacrifice. “Phoned that one in,” says one of my companions.

Very hearty handshake between the two men.

Clear win for Obama, I thought.

The thirty ignorami split for Obama, 15-10. Three switched from undecided to Obama; none to McCain.

They didn’t like the Ayers stuff. Like me, they didn’t like “Joe the Plumber.”

CBS flash poll: 53-22 Obama.

28% now committed to Obama, 14% now committed to McCain.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: