7:46 Central Time: I can't believe this is the last of the '08 live-blogging, but it is. Settle in. Let's savor these precious moments together.
8:03: McCain begins with a tribute to Nancy Reagan's pelvis. Second: Americans are angry, angry I tell you.
8:05: The first question, on the financial crisis, gives them both a chance to give a speech that they could have prepared in advance. With a chance at a follow-up, McCain plugs in prepared material about Joe the plumber who is worried about taxes. He should have listened to Obama's answer and responded very precisely to that. Generally, Obama seems much more fluid and complex, and McCain is wooden and overprepared, unwilling to react on the spot. When he's not speaking, McCain sits with his hands folded on the table. Obama speaks again, then McCain hits him with the "spread the wealth around" comment that Obama made to Joe the plumber. He's coming alive a bit now [McCain]. But I don't know how many more times he can say "Joe the plumber." If we'd put "Joe the plumber" on the drinking game list, we'd be sprawling under the table already.
8:17: McCain is going to wield a hatchet and then a scalpel. He's after the pork. Especially that demonic overhead projector. Did you have "overhead projector" on your drinking list? Now, Obama is talking about "earmarks," an unfortunate term that make us notice how huge his ears look tonight.
8:22: McCain asks Obama to say when he's ever stood up to his party. And Obama has (what sounds like) some good examples: tort reform, charter schools....
8:31: McCain challenges Obama about John Lewis's charge that the McCain campaign has been racist. Obama ignores it for a while, then finally gets around to it. But what did he say? He didn't repudiate Lewis, which is what McCain demanded. McCain comes back at him, with a bit of a tirade about what fine Americans there are in the McCain/Palin crowds. On the split screen, Obama has that look that I saw him aim at Hillary Clinton months ago. I think McCain is getting to him. He got Obama to tip his head up and look down his nose at McCain. Now, McCain needles him about Ayers and ACORN. McCain is on the attack, and Obama is stuck in the defensive role.
8:43: Palin is a freath of bresh air.
8:47: Nuclear pants... uh... nuclear plants.
8:51: McCain mugs when it's not his turn. He lit up when Obama said he believes in free trade. He's all over Obama about free trade. Obama doesn't understand free trade... and he's never been south of the border. Obama comes back, seemingly unriled. But I'm distracted by the McCain side of the screen. McCain sparkles with the knowledge of his superiority on free trade... or so it seems.
8:56: My son Jac is live-blogging too, and he just wrote: "McCain is back to the 'he doesn't understand' line against Obama, this time about Colombia trade policy. Obama: 'Actually, I understand it pretty well ...' Oh, but how can that be? He's never traveled south of the border!" McCain is trying to get under Obama's skin, but Obama is standing his ground. He understands what McCain is up to.
8:59: McCain thinks you're fat.
8:59: Joe the plumber is back.
9:06: Something about health care. Who won? I don't know.
9:07: The Supreme Court. McCain notes his record of voting for judicial nominees based on their qualifications. This is a good point, because Obama has voted against highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, while McCain voted for Justice Ginsburg. They're both against "litmus tests" (of course).
9:13: McCain presses Obama on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act and partial birth abotion, very sensitive subjects. Obama wants to communicate to young people that sex is sacred and we don't want any "cavalier" activity.
9:19: Education. Gah. Am I paying attention? Are you paying attention? Education is important!
8:28: The closing statements at last. McCain sounds over-rehearsed and he stumbles over many things. He says "abased" for "based." I think he knows he hasn't done enough tonight. He hasn't rattled Obama, not enough anyway. Obama is doing his final statement now. It's not particularly interesting, but it's filling the space, and we're probably not listening, because we know, he's survived the final ordeal. He will be our President, I think, and I think they both know that. They shake hands, and we hear McCain vigorously congratulating the younger man -- our future President, in all likelihood -- "Good job! Good job!"
9:34: No more debates! Can it be? We've reached the end. Thanks to both men, John McCain and Barack Obama, for fighting so long and so hard and for stepping up to the awesome task of governing this great, unwieldy, beloved country of ours.