McCain’s last chance?

Viewed as an exercise in game theory, John McCain’s situation going into tonight’s debate is a fascinating one. He’s trailing badly in the polls, and it looks like his deficit is growing. Even North Dakota looks ready to abandon him (and if THAT’S not interpreted by Jesusland’s fanatics as a sure sign of the end-times, I don’t know what would be). And the economy aka “the issues” have apparently totally stacked the deck against negative attacks, as all of McCain’s have fallen short, both in and out of the debates.

Nonetheless, McCain is almost certain to attack:  he’s said as much, promising to “kick [Obama’s] you know what” and assuring his supporters he’ll raise the Ayers issue.  Obama has been egging him on, of course, giving an interview earlier in the week where he essentially dared McCain to confront him with Ayers face-to-face.  And we all know that McCain is helpless to resist any mano-a-mano challenge (something that I’m sure many foreign leaders will use to play him like a fiddle should he actually become president).

So Obama will get what he wants:  McCain will come out swinging tonight, and Obama will be ready for him.  Or will he?  In truth McCain has no choice but to gamble:  he’s like a boxer that has to have a knockout.  Winning on points isn’t enough, and he has to hope that either Obama will stumble in defense or prove too emotive in a counterattack. He faces heavy odds; his only chance, really, is some kind of surprise.  We’ll find out what that is soon enough.

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