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The Rundown

3:30 p.m. ET: We won't know for a few days how last night's debate affects the polling in the presidential race. We do know that, at this moment, Barack Obama seems to be ahead. But by how much?

With so many different surveys out there -- all with different sample sizes, methodologies and funny acronyms -- it can be tough to figure out what's a trend and what's a blip. On one hand, Gallup's tracking poll now has Obama up 11 points, his biggest lead over John McCain in the entire campaign. On the other hand(s), four other major tracking surveys, for Rasmussen, GW/Battleground, Reuters and Hotline, put Obama's current lead at 6, 4, 2, and 1 point(s) respectively.

More intriguingly, all four of those closer tracking surveys showed Obama's lead shrinking from the day before. With the exception of a few phone calls made last night, all of the polls came before the Nashville debate. So is it possible that McCain is actually on the upswing, and that just hasn't penetrated the media's consciousness yet?

Here's one theory: Maybe Obama has already hit his "ceiling." Maybe he's already persuaded all of the voters he's possibly going to persuade, so his polls have nowhere to go but down. This doesn't mean Obama's not still the favorite, only that his numbers won't keep rising inexorably to 60 percent and beyond. Or perhaps the Gallup poll is right and all the others are wrong. Less than four weeks to go until we can know for sure.

12 p.m. ET: Astute observers of last night's debate may have noticed that John McCain immediately began scribbling down notes at the start of the session and took up the pen again multiple times. What was he writing? Here are a few possibilities:

1) "Remember to say 'my friends' repeatedly, rather than 'my enemies' or 'comrades.'"

2) "Should I call Obama 'that one'? How about 'the other guy' or 'that joker over there'? Or should I just jerk my chin in his direction?"

3) "Why is it again that I'm supposed to love town halls?"

4) "Keep saying Obama voted to raise taxes 94 times. Will drive the fact-checkers CRAZY. Heh."

5) "Should I use the 'Ms. Congeniality' line again? It killed at Ole Miss."

Hazard your own guesses in the comments section below. Extra credit to anyone who gets ahold of his actual notes and sends them along.

8 a.m. ET: A "game changer," it was not. The first reviews are in for the Nashville town hall debate that wasn't really much of a town hall. Drudge, at this hour, is succinct: "BORING." Others are only marginally more specific, offering some variation on "it was a tie, so Obama won."

Still other debate-watchers believe Obama really did win, and not just because he was already ahead and didn't blow it, etc. As in the first debate, the snap polls also gave the night to the Democrat: CBS had Obama winning, 40-26, while CNN had it at 54-30.

McCain gets less love this morning, though a few specific moments from the face-off -- especially "that one" -- are getting attention. And his new proposal for the government to buy up distressed mortgages also gets some play (though it may not be all that new), as the McCain campaign clearly wanted this plan to be the major news coming out of the night.

But it may be just McCain's luck that other financial news is crowding out attention for his plan this morning: The markets are doing that crazy thing they do again. Global stocks started way down this morning, but are now rebounding with word that the Fed has cut interest rates. MIght this move lead to a rebound on Wall Street? And can the Fed do anything to help McCain? He could use a rally himself.

By Ben Pershing  |  October 8, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

The Rundown is a great name for this blog. As a 60-year-old white male, I can appreciate how "run down" I look after a hard week's work or lack of sleep. McCain looks stressed and tired and old. I'm not sure how much makeup they had to apply to the senator from Arizona, but it wasn't enough to hide the obvious differences. He only made matters worse by alluding to the hair plugs he needed.

Posted by: Dog Dayz | October 8, 2008 10:36 AM

I think McCain was writing his times table, he has to start to learn econonics somewhere!

Posted by: Peter Mac | October 8, 2008 12:20 PM

"Note to self: kick Bush's ass if I lose this election."

Posted by: John | October 8, 2008 12:32 PM

"I wonder if the audience notices that my hair is thinning?"

Posted by: Dennis | October 8, 2008 12:44 PM

He had to write down what the question was because he is OLD and could not remember it without writing it down!

Posted by: Monique | October 8, 2008 12:48 PM

i laughed out loud when he started writing before a single question was asked. so wacky and forced - like everything in his campaign right now.

Posted by: jo | October 8, 2008 12:54 PM

I am trying to write something... what should I write? Let me start with writing my name. Uh oh.. what's my name? Never mind.

Posted by: Bill | October 8, 2008 1:06 PM

"Remember to tell Brokaw there's no damn way he's going to be my treasury secretary!"

Posted by: Jimmy | October 8, 2008 1:25 PM

Mahmoud Achma...Achma...din..jihad...no no
Mahmoud Achma...Achmadi..na..na...not gonna survive my first term, Ha!

Fax to Dubya later, he'll get a kick out this one. Crap somebody's talking to me...umm...not you Tom.

Posted by: Gary | October 8, 2008 1:29 PM

"Hopefully someone with a military background will ask a question, so I can go over and shake their hand but must remember to leave immediately following the debate-I don't really want to know their story."

Posted by: Stella | October 8, 2008 1:35 PM

Remember to look up Flame of Florida on trip to St. Pete.

Posted by: John | October 8, 2008 1:37 PM

He was drawing the map to get off the stage.

Posted by: Linda from St. Paul | October 8, 2008 2:00 PM

My friends and I watching the debate were laughing endlessly when McCain immediately started “taking notes” on the stage. I guess aloud that he was doodling, maybe some cats and dogs. Another guess was that McCain was writing, “You have to look at him this time. They’ll think you’re a coward if you don’t look at him.”

Posted by: miknugget | October 8, 2008 2:06 PM

"I'm John McCain, dammit!"

"Who's Cindy sitting next to?"

"Be more respectful of that one."

"Use more Alaska referrences."

"Where's Sarah?"

"This too shall pass."

Posted by: nat | October 8, 2008 2:14 PM

McCain's referral to Obama as "that one", taken together with Palin's hate-mongering speeches, leave little doubt that McCain is using racial code-speak to indicate that Obama is "the other" and not white enough to be President. McCain should quail in shame at what he is prepared to do and say in order to be elected. I now despise this man I once profoundly respected.

Posted by: Garland | October 8, 2008 2:15 PM


McCain's campaign says one thing to the national press corps but in Iowa it happily admits its going to go very negative in a sad and desperate attempt to smear Barack Obama.

Posted by: dsmliberal | October 8, 2008 2:19 PM

Can you say I D 10 T

Posted by: Ridge | October 8, 2008 2:22 PM

1. I'm screwed....even internal polls say so.

2. Damn luck...How am I supposed to avoid the economy on a day when the Dow tanks.

3. Find way to seque from stock market crash to William Ayres.

4. Remember to hide any sign of bitterness or disdain for the little know-it-all.

5. Try winking at Brokaw....it worked for my BFF Sarah.....god I love her soooooo much...I wonder if Cindy suspects anything....screw her....I just hope the first dude stays in the dark.

Posted by: JDRstemcell | October 8, 2008 2:36 PM

McCain wrote down these phrases, but crossed them all out:

"That guy!
The half-breed!
The beanpole with the ears!
Bozo over there!
Give ya a hint- his middle name's Hussein!"

Then he wrote "That one!", circled it, and wrote, "Perfect- when he takes offense, accuse him of playing race card!"

Posted by: howlless | October 8, 2008 2:43 PM

Why is it that everytime someone attacks Obama they are "hate mongering" or "racist"? I thought we were past this nonsense but the Obama camp and certain supporters (Garland) keep on bringing it up. "that one" was an incredibly stupid thing to say, no more.

Posted by: Gary | October 8, 2008 2:48 PM

Guess he was writing this:
@barackobama: shuddup. yer wastin my time.
@barackobama: going to sell your change phrases on ebay after election.
@barackobama: my tie is longer than yours.
@barackobama: c'mon! don't argue with facts. this is a town hall meeting.
@barackobama: I know what twitter is all about.

Posted by: Foreigner | October 8, 2008 3:05 PM

John's notte to himself!
When you get to a certain age you need reminders. So make some notes!

1.) Made it to the hall (Check)
2.) Used the men's room (Check)
3.) Mention Joe Lieberman several times so if the pom-pom girl self-destructs the (Rabid Right) will embrace Joe. (Ready for a check)
4.) What did Cindy want me to pick up on the way home (Caviar, olives and bar-b-que sauce) (Ready for a check)
5.) Now where was I? Did I hear someone ask a question? (Ready for several checks)
6.) Who's that sitting on the stool, that I can't quite reach. Oh! That little p _ _ _ _, again!

Posted by: Rober10561 | October 8, 2008 3:18 PM

I agree with Gary - "that one" has nothing to do with race, if anything its ageism, but saying "that whippersnapper" just would have made McCain seem even older (if possible). You have to wonder if McCain feels so much contempt for Obama for not "earning" the right to be on a presidential ticket, how must he really feel about Palin?

Posted by: anon | October 8, 2008 3:31 PM

John Mccain is hilarious. Every other time he speaks he says the same thing, including phrases like "my friends". In addition why is every singe issue "the profound difference" between he and Senator Obama?? He needs to stick with one notion please! John Mccain tried to make a mochary out of Senator Obama which is totally disrespectful. And no this is not about race its about having respect for the other candidate and addressing the issues and concerns not segwaying into topics no one asked about to try to hinder the the noble Senator Obama!

Posted by: N/A | October 8, 2008 3:36 PM

I think he was writing the question so he wouldn't forget.

Posted by: cjsk | October 8, 2008 4:07 PM

Do you think McCain's age is important here? I read all these comments and insinuations that are written, some funny, some disrespectful and all indicative of several generations of young people who have had most things handed to them on a platter by their parents, grandparents, and yes, people like John McCain. I would guess you feel the same way about your grandparents. Wow!

Posted by: John | October 8, 2008 4:54 PM

McCain was just working out his talking points. For instance, what is the cheesiest, most faux-folksy piece of drivel I can say to make Obama look inexperienced?

- "I was Ragtime before Ragtime was cool."
- "We need a wide stance in the stall."
- "My original health care plan will cover ALL Depression-era railroad tramps and itinerant hobos."
- "The Afghanistan-Pakistan border's got nothin' on the Dust Bowl."
- "I eat tree bark. That's it."
- "We need a steady hand at the tiller." Perfect!

Posted by: Bovine Yokel | October 8, 2008 4:57 PM

Maybe you are all right, Mc Cain is going down the tube. My question is: what makes all of you sure that Obama is prepared to handle a repetition of the BD and two wars outside? Just a question guys. I wish all of you the best luck there is. You are going to need it. The problem is that whenever your enchantment with this guy who did NOTHING so far is over, it's going to be too late. I guess I dont see too much TV these days, right? Time will tell, as always. If not, see what Bill Clinton means today to many of his critics.

Posted by: AR | October 8, 2008 4:59 PM

Seems that Obama is going to make it. It is still hard to understand what his merit is, other than being a good salesman who happens to have the favors of most of the media. The truth of the matter is that neither Obama nor Mc Cain have demonstrated the so called patriotism. In a time where we are all loosing something, in a crisis, they chose to keep playing politics, dodging every critical question, and promising things that not even my 8 year old nephew would believe. So, maybe the Obama wave pushed by the media is something "cool" today; but I guess reality will smack our faces down pretty soon.

Posted by: Ruth B. | October 8, 2008 5:08 PM

This talk about Obama hitting a support ceiling is nothing but speculation without any factual basis. Maybe it is an effort to drive down Obama's poll numbers.

Posted by: Peter | October 8, 2008 5:31 PM

I don't think it is a matter of disrespect for my elders -- I loved my grandparents and my parents no matter their age. However, I can clearly see how their age and health would be a detriment to the sort of leadership and quick mindedness that the presidency requires. Senator McCain missed his opportunity and is now too old. And with his cancer issues, most certainly will need to step down and turn over the reins of power to Governor Palin, who despite her youth, is not of the caliber to do this job.

Posted by: Tom | October 8, 2008 6:06 PM

I think McCain was scribbling "Look alive!" to himself from the very beginning.

It's funny that by choosing a winking idiot like Palin as his running mate, McCain denied himself the right to say ANYTHING about Obama's supposed inexperience in politics, or call him not-ready-to lead.
These things aptly characterize his VP choice, which means they are not negatives at all in his eyes.

As far as I'm concerned though, his VP choice told me that McCain is a fool with zero respect for the office of the President, and no appreciation for its responsibilities, because if he died, that twit Palin would become president=reason enough not to vote for him, regardless of anything else. Palin is McCain's albatros.

Posted by: Catherine | October 8, 2008 7:35 PM

He was writing down information that he had memorized and that he was afraid he was going to forget. When he called Barack "that one" I believe that he actually couldn't remember Barack's name. It looks like signs of alzheimers to me.

Posted by: P.E. | October 8, 2008 8:12 PM

He was writing his concession speech.

Posted by: voter | October 8, 2008 10:51 PM

Catherine, what a totally inappropriate comment about Alzheimer's Disease. For shame to trivialize such a devastating disease, or insinuate because one is older, one is afflicted with the disease. Perhaps if as you say, McCain couldn't remember Obama's name, it's because it's rare that someone so new to the scene, someone so inexperienced and unaccomplished would actually be running for president.

Posted by: Agnes | October 8, 2008 11:39 PM

Correction, P.E. is the one who made the Alzheimer's comment. Catherine is the one making inappropriate ageist comments.

Posted by: Agnes | October 8, 2008 11:41 PM


Catherine: "Look alive"

Bill: "Let me start with writing my name. Uh oh.. what's my name? Never mind"

Rober10561: "2.) Used the men's room (Check)" and others...

P.E.: "It looks like signs of alzheimers to me."

Look at what you are saying. It's WRONG to speak this way of another human being, just because you don't want your politician to win. For shame.

Posted by: Agnes | October 8, 2008 11:53 PM

correction, just because you WANT your choice of politician to win, no need to say such things...

Are you going to insinuate things about me, too, now, because of a typo in my last post? No, I'm not old, and no, I'm not a Republican. Just a decent person asking you to behave in a decent manner toward fellow human beings. Just because you want your horse to win is no reason to behave disgracefully.

Interestingly, I'm going to vote for McCain (first time for a Republican) BECAUSE he is experienced. His age is a plus for me. I suggest you look into the ages of other presidents as well as other dignitaries, scholars, and accomplished men and women throughout history. God willing, one becomes wiser with age.

Now let's get back to talking about the issues - and leave gender, race, and age out of it.

Posted by: Agnes | October 9, 2008 12:00 AM

Perhaps he was making a list of all his medication that he didn't take that day.

Posted by: michael veiners | October 9, 2008 12:16 AM

Let's forget that John McCain is wandering around aimlessly on stage...let's forget he chose Sarah Palin to win over women voters...let's forget the last eight years...let's forget the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression...Let's forget everything and respect John McCain for reducing the Presidential debate to the gutter...hmmm.

Posted by: gk.gibs | October 9, 2008 6:15 AM

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