ABC — Always be closing

It’s not over. It’s over.

Sen. McCain hit the Hofstra debate running, coming out strong and handily winning the first 25 minutes or so of the final presidential debate Wednesday night. Ironically, he sounded stronger, at least for the first half-hour, on domestic policy issues, which had been considered Sen. Obama’s strength. Ironic, because Obama had sounded stronger on foreign policy issues in the first two debates, which was considered McCain’s strength.

Obama looked flat to start out by comparison. He hit his stride on the two critical issues of education and abortion, where he clearly outclassed McCain; by then, McCain’s increasingly apparent anger began to hamper him. Obama’s continued advocacy for early childhood education (he did this in the first debate) is as important as his position on changing our approach to energy for the security of future generations. But it was McCain’s debate to win or lose, and after a great start, like the sports cliché goes, McCain snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Obama, who got stronger as the debate went on, sealing the deal with his closing argument, is now facing the same issue that he did in his primary campaign against Sen. Clinton — faced with an increasing lead, can he sprint ahead and bury his opponent, or will his opponent close the gap even in a losing effort? Like many a race horse (and I know a thing or two about The Ponies), with a comfortable lead, there’s a tendency to sit on that lead, have the jockey relax, and as a result, you win by one length rather than five. This more-or-less happened in the primary, when he faded and Sen. Clinton closed the gap. Will it happen to Obama again? Like in the primary, some of this gap-closing could be the result of the trailer throwing some Hail Mary’s, some of which are bound to find receivers. Obama has proven to be a winner earlier this year, but is he also a closer? He’s warning his supporters not to get too overconfident and avoid complacency and cockiness. Meanwhile, will McCain’s legacy go down as the honorable senator he’s been, the Henry Clay of our times (and that’s no insult), or as a bitter and angry losing presidential candidate? We’ll see in 19 days.

(with updates throughout)

Meanwhile, why does McCain’s official camp need to keep up the nasty attacks? His supporters are showing enough nastiness, and Gov. Palin apparently thinks city livin’ is unpatriotic (both links via Talking Points Memo).

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