Live-blogging: Who let Bill Clinton in here?

Discussing the economy, John McCain is trying to convince Americans that he understands what they're going through.

By Alex Koppelman
Published October 16, 2008 1:10AM (EDT)

John McCain feels your pain.

Oh, he didn't quote Bill Clinton, exactly, but most of his first answer in tonight's debate was about giving Americans some sign that he knows what they're going through. It wasn't just his words, either -- his face, his tone, was all about projecting empathy.

On the other hand, Barack Obama's answer wasn't about feelings as much as it was about detailing his policy proposals.

You could make a case that McCain's strategy might have been better than Obama's here, if only because emotional, visceral appeals are often more effective. But I think each candidate's answer was damn near perfect considering who they are and what they need to do tonight. McCain needs to convince Americans he cares and understands their situation enough to be trusted to fix it; Obama needs to convince people he is capable enough and experienced enough to fix it. For the most part, so far he's done that, and he's done it in just this fashion.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama John Mccain R-ariz.