American Debate LIVE - chat with Dick Polman tonight

The transcript of Dick Polman's live chat during the final debate between Barack Obama and John McCain follows:

9:00 [Comment From Kevin - Philadelphia]
In your post today - is it really McCain establishing himself or does he almost have to hope that Obama messes up --- in a big way?

9:02 Dick Polman: McCain can't do it all by himself. He needs for Obama to screw up somehow. Given Obama's discipline, I wouldn't bet on that happening.

9:02 [Comment From Ray]
Mr. Polman, what do you expect each candidate to do tonight?

9:06 Dick Polman: McCain needs to show that he has credbility as a potential steward of the economy. People care about their wallets/pocketbooks, not about the negative stuff that McCain has been directing at Obama. As for Obama, he just needs to do what he has done in the first couple debates - be calm and articulate. According to the polls, people have already warmed to Obama as a result of the first two debates. He needs to stay the couse, without seeming to be complacent about his poll lead.

9:06 [Comment From Phil - Philly]
Will McCain bring up the character/association attacks if not prompted?

9:08 Dick Polman: I suspect that McCain will only do that in the most indirect fashion. He's surely well aware that, the more he attacks Obama, the lower he sinks in the polls. Every single survey has shown that, most recently the CBS-NYTimes poll released yesterday,

9:08 [Comment From Curious]
So how do they pick the moderators at these things? Why did Bob Schieffer get this job instead of Katie Couric?

9:10 Dick Polman: I don't know how they pick the moderators, but I do know that Bob Schieffer is very well respected within the political community. He's regarded as a tough but fair nonpartisan questioner.

9:11 [Comment From Paul]
Do you think Schieffer will take the bait and bring up Ayers?

9:12 Dick Polman: If Schieffer does that, I doubt that Obama would mind. Obama no doubt has his answer ready.

9:12 [Comment From Baseball fan]
Dick, I'm watching the baseball game and following the debate here in the chat. Is there any good reason for me to change the channel?

9:13 Dick Polman: Not yet, but we're still in the first inning.

9:13 [Comment From Sean S]
Do you think McCain is winning/can win this argument about taxes?

9:16 Dick Polman: According to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, Obama is viewed as the candidate who would better handle people's taxes - by a margin of 11 percent. That's stunning, given that the Republicans are usually viewed more favorably on taxes. I suspect that Obama's middle-class tax cut pitch has resonated. So, I question whether McCain wins the two-minute tax argument.

9:18 [Comment From Paul]
TV pundits have said for days that the debate is McCain's last chance to change teh path that he is seemingly on. Is that anything more then punditry? Can his debate performance really turn around the election for him?

9:18 Dick Polman: Well, this debate is the last chance for McCain to speak unfiltered to a mass audience (perhaps 70 million people). It'll be tougher for him to break through, during the final 19 days, if he doesn't somehow trump Obama tonight.

9:22 [Comment From RichP]
Historical question regarding debates: I just finished Nixonland and noticed the remarkable parallels between the nature of the 1968 and 2008 elections (though in opposite directions). I believe that Nixon was able to avoid debating both Humphrey and McGovern. How was he able to do that and how long have debates been part of the mainstream election process?

9:24 Dick Polman: Kennedy and Nixon (1960) were the first modern-day debaters. But the debate format wasn't fully institutionalized until 1976. So it was easy for Nixon to skip them in 68 and 72 -- and for Lyndon Johnson to skip them in 1964.

9:24 [Comment From Al]
So is it true that you covered the Phillies earlier in your career? If so, how are you calling the NLCS?

9:25 Dick Polman: Phillies in six.

9:27 [Comment From GAME5WINPLEASE]
I don't like the fact that he sat in Wright's church for 20years (if that is accurate) and how he flipped on him after saying "I could no longer disown that man than I could disown my own white grandmother" in a widely heralded speech in our great city, then about two weeks later said he doesn't recognize the man and disowned him.

9:27 Dick Polman: He abandoned Wright when Wright's political baggage became too heavy.

9:29 [Comment From Phil - Philly]
Dick - did you see the clip online that shows the Penguin debating Batman from the old TV show? The Penguin says that Batman is shady...who is the real Batman...he pals around with criminals. Hilarious - check it out.

9:29 Dick Polman: I saw that. It originated on Mark Ambinder's excellent blog, on the Atlantic magazine website.

9:31 [Comment From Sean S - iJeeves]
McCain is doing great right now - agree?

9:32 Dick Polman: McCain seems more forceful.

9:34 [Comment From Claire]
Really? McCain seems upset to me. Perceptions, perceptions...

9:34 Dick Polman: I don't necessarily equate being forceful with being effective.

9:40 [Comment From Phil - Philly]
OK - Ayers just came out...who won on that?

9:42 Dick Polman: The only people who are obsessed with the Ayres issue are the conservative Republicans who already plan to vote for McCain. The latest national polls demonstrate that swing voters and independents couldn't care less. The more McCain harps on Ayres, the more he hurts himself.

9:42 [Comment From havertown]
In your opinion is the Obama friendship with the guy from Weather Underground a serious credibility issue? Or is the problem the way Obama handled it?

9:42 Dick Polman: People are fixated on their household budgets in 2008, not on what happened in 1969.

9:43 [Comment From Sean S - iJeeves]
Running mates - gonna be great!

9:44 Dick Polman: McCain defending Palin - who, according to all the polls, continues to cost him votes. "I can't tell you how proud I am of her." Keep digging, senator.

9:44 [Comment From Kam Moukwa]
Do you think Obama will try to attack McCain on this question on running mates? Her appeal has definitely waned in recent weeks.

9:45 Dick Polman: Exactly. Obama doesn't need to waste any time on Palin.

9:45 [Comment From john]
wow you are so biased its amazing.

9:46 Dick Polman: I'm a columnist. A columnist has a point of view. If you don't like mine, you have millions of online alternatives.

9:47 [Comment From havertown]
is the problem with Palin a personality issue with her, or a reflection on McCain's judgment, or both?

9:48 Dick Polman: McCain's judgment. There are plenty of prominent Republicans who feel he made a serious mistake. See David Frum over at the National Review, for example.

9:49 [Comment From Steverawthar]
I'm biased, but only because I've had months to form my opinions based on the two campaigns, and my biased opinion is that the McCain campaign has become a disaster, and this debate is showing no less.

9:51 Dick Polman: Well, what's striking is McCain's mixed message. A few minutes ago, after railing against Ayres, he then switched moods and said that his campaign is all about optimism, "a bright future for America." The Ayres message was for the GOP base; the optimism message was for the independent swing voters. Not sure they meshed properly.

9:51 [Comment From Claire]
Why do you think that Obama is not bringing up Pailin's problems in Alaska?

9:53 Dick Polman: He probably figures that he's comfortably ahead in part because most Americans have already rendered a thumbs-down verdict on Palin. But he did miss an opportunity to bring up the Alaska ethics problems when McCain lauded Palin as a maverick/reformer.

9:54 [Comment From John]
Phils 4 -0

9:54 Dick Polman: Perhaps we need a Hamels-Stairs ticket.

9:54 [Comment From Andrew Fick]
do you think mccain honestly thinks he has a chance anymore or do you think that when he starts criticizing Obama's word choice, he knows he's sunk and is reaching

9:55 Dick Polman:
He's at a point in this campaign where he has to throw not only the kitchen sink, but whatever cutlery is at hand.

9:56 [Comment From Sean S - iJeeves]
Obama has been smiling and making little wise cracks quite a bit - do you think McCains messages are getting through to voters or making him look angry and old?

9:58 Dick Polman: Marshall McCluhan, the great media guru, used to write that "cool" personalities excel in television much better than "hot" personalities. I think this is a contributing factor for Obama.

9:59 [Comment From Jonathan Ghitis]
Dear Professor: McCain said that obama had never traveled "south of the border", should Obama have responded that Palin has never traveled anywhere at all?

10:00 Dick Polman: He doesn't need to respond by bringing up Palin. I suspect that Obama doesn't think McCain's barbs are stinging.

10:01 [Comment From Jonathan Ghitis]
Ok, one more: Who in your opinion is a bigger celebrity, Joe the Plumber or Paris Hilton?

10:01 Dick Polman: Depends on how Joe the Plumber looks in a swimsuit.

10:02 [Comment From Raffi]
Hi Mr. Polman, love the blog! On a related note, is it just me or does McCain keep rolling his eyes? Do you think that reflects negatively on him?

10:04 Dick Polman: Thanks, Raffi....McCain has trouble concealing his distaste for Obama.

10:04 [Comment From Kam Moukwa]
I've noticed that Obama has been looking into the camera a lot more when discussing energy and healthcare. Do you think this makes his message more effective? Why wasn't he doing this in the beginning during questions about the economy?

10:05 Dick Polman:
Don't know why he didn't do it earlier. But it's clear that the aim is to connect directly with the viewer, implicitly bypassing his opponent.

10:06 [Comment From Guest]
Don't know if you watching on CNN, but they have a live tracker of uncommitted voters, and every time McCain goes negative, his rating drops a ton. Will McCain ever figure out that people dont want this type of campaign?

10:06 Dick Polman:
He knows that his base wants him to attack. He has very few other options, but I don't see how it helps him.

10:08 [Comment From Kam Moukwa]
Is it just me, or does it seem that Obama is not tying McCain to the past eight years nearly as much as in the first two Presidential debates?

10:08 Dick Polman: I agree. He hasn't. Tactically, he should.

10:10 [Comment From Deborah Coons]
Why did McCain stop being himself and turn to the tactics of someone on his staff who apparently convinced him to talk more about how horrible Obama is instead of the issues that he/McCain is for. Basic principle I teach my kids.... everything you are against works against you... everything you are for works for you. Be for peace, not against war. What made McCain change?

10:11 Dick Polman: His campaign was taken over by strategists who cut their teeth in the 2004 Bush campaign.

10:12 [Comment From David Hammon]
Nice comeback for McCain to suggest Obama should have ran for president four years ago

10:14 Dick Polman: Well, Obama would not have run for president directly from the Illinois state senate. But it was a good line in the sense that it enabled McCain to give himself a little more distance from Bush (who was on the ballot in '04, but not this year).

10:15 [Comment From Phil - Philly]
Is that McCain breathing heavily when Obama talks?

10:16 Dick Polman: Your volume tuner is more sensitive than mine. Visually, though, McCain just seems jumpy.

10:18 [Comment From RichP]
How effectively have the Dems learned their lessons from 2004 to counteract the negative attacks that were so effective last time? Is it their approach or have people just become more desensitized this time around?

10:20 Dick Polman: They've improved, in terms of their responses. But Obama easily could have been more aggressive in his responses tonight. When he was hit with the Ayres charge, he could have responded by talking about McCain's past associations with ex-Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, etc.

10:21 [Comment From Chris Rippel]
I have watching CNN's independent voter scrolling poll. It is amazing how high it can go when Obama talks and how it drops when McCain talks.

10:22 Dick Polman: But I have never gotten the hang of those CNN pie charts.

10:23 [Comment From Mike layer]
Who is winning in your eyes?

10:25 Dick Polman: Depends on how you define "winning." Obama does well simply by not screwing up in a memorable way that gets repeated ad infinitim on TV over the next week. McCain needs that kind of singular "moment," something damaging to Obama and beneficial to him. I haven't seen such a moment.

10:28 [Comment From Risa]
Sarah Palin's son has Down's Syndrome not autism!!!!!

10:28 Dick Polman: Bad slip.

10:28 [Comment From Drax]
LOL, not to be mean, but at the very end when McCain sneered, my 9 year old said "Why does McCain have green teeth?"

10:29 Dick Polman: I wonder whether the advent of high-definition television is hurting McCain.

10:31 [Comment From Sean S - iJeeves]
Thanks Professor Polman - see you soon

10:31 Dick Polman: Thanks to all for participating. Sooner rather than later, I hope, I will have far more coherent thoughts posted on the blog.