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What Could Change the Election?

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Sen. John McCain needs a moment in his final debate with Sen. Barack Obama if he is to catch up in the polls, reports Jeff Glor. Harry Smith talks to advisers from both campaigns. Video by CBSNEWS.com

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Post asked John Podesta, Newt Gingrich, Mary Beth Cahill, Peter J. Wallison and Stuart E. Eizenstat what could make tonight a game-changer.

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JOHN PODESTA

Chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund

McCain needs to change the dynamic of this race, but his erratic responses to the economic crisis aren't the way to do it. He could consider announcing that, if elected, he would pledge to serve only one term, with the goal of restoring stability to the economy based on conservative ideas. This might help neutralize concerns over McCain's age and could, perhaps, restore the perception of seriousness that his campaign has been so desperately lacking in recent weeks. McCain would need to embrace the lame-duck status accorded to a term-limited president by expressing his eagerness to work with a Democratic Congress. He might also give voters a taste of his administration by disclosing some of his picks for a bipartisan Cabinet.

This gamble would focus attention on his potential successor, Sarah Palin, whose policies align even more closely with President Bush's and whose abuses of power eerily resemble Dick Cheney's. But there aren't many good options for McCain at this stage, and this long shot has the advantage of closing with honor.

NEWT GINGRICH

Former Republican speaker of the House

McCain has to focus on the Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine and the threats they pose to most Americans: Nancy Pelosi's call for "harsh measures"; the Democrats' proposal Monday to abolish 401(k) plans; the plan to strip Americans of the right to vote in a secret-ballot election before being coerced into joining a union; the tax increase on the investors who are needed to regrow the stock market and retirement plans, and their likely flight from American investments; the use of tax money to pay the liberal group ACORN, which is engaged in massive voter fraud in its registration drives in multiple states; the close ties Chris Dodd, Barack Obama and Barney Frank have to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and the trillion-dollar spending increase in the Obama campaign promises. If McCain can make these facts stick, he can get back into the race.

MARY BETH CAHILL

Manager of Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign and former chief of staff to Sen. Edward Kennedy

So far in this general election, the debates have not been game-changers. Were McCain to unveil a coherent economic recovery strategy believable to voters and regain his footing as an independent-minded leader capable of appealing to independents, he might be able to move outside of the Republican base vote in the final weeks and tighten the endgame.

But that is unlikely to happen. Obama will turn in another calm, knowledgeable performance, and McCain will not return his gaze.


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