Don’t ask me who won the debate in terms of persuading formerly undecided voters to fix an allegiance. The number of undecided voters who understand the difference between financial and fiscal is minuscule, and the number of those who think that the difference actually matters is probably zero. But from a technocratic standpoint, the fact that McCain twice referred to the financial crisis as a "fiscal crisis" is telling. It means (a) that he doesn’t really understand it, and (b) that insofar as he does, he thinks that government is at least as much part of the problem as it is part of the solution.
But McCain really lost me here:
Yes, I went back to Washington, and I met with my Republicans in the House of Representatives. And they weren’t part of the negotiations, and I understand that. And it was the House Republicans that decided that they would be part of the solution to this problem.
In what conceivable way, shape or form have the House Republicans decided that they would be part of the solution to this problem? By sitting on an idiotic idea until the last possible moment, not sharing it with anyone, and then declaring it the only plan they would support?
McCain, here, is allying himself with precisely these House Republicans, and that worries me. Remember, he doesn’t like government takeovers: "I want to make sure we’re not handing the health care system over to the federal government," he said. No one asked what he felt about handing a substantial portion of the national banking system’s assets over the Federal government, but I can’t imagine that he’s getting on particularly well with Hank Paulson these days.
When it comes to the economy, then, I’d say that Obama lived up to reasonably high expectations, while McCain sounded, to anybody with a real grasp of the situation, as though he had very little idea what he was talking about. On the other hand, I have yet to meet a single person with a real grasp of the financial crisis who is an undecided voter. So it is quite conceivable that this will do McCain no electoral harm at all.