If you watched the “town-hall” version of the presidential debates last night, you saw the next President of the United States, and a tired old man trying gamely to keep up with him.

While there was nothing especially new introduced into the contest — save for a$300B mortgage buyout idea floated by Sen. McCain that hearkened more to Franklin Roosevelt than McCain’s professed hero, Teddy — it was Obama’s bearing, stature and honest pragmatism that won the event.

Confronted with the question of how each candidates’ priorities would be shaped by the clear signal that our economy is deeply troubled, McCain pressed ahead with the jingoistic meme that, as Americans, we can do anything we set our minds to. Obama’s answer was more considered — and more grounded in reality — suggesting that we’ll have to set priorities, just as American families do ’round their own kitchen tables.

McCain didn’t use the opportunity of the debate to level those accusations against Obama in person that he and his campaign have been making on the campaign trail… whether he’s got second thoughts about slinging mud in general — or just in person — remains to be seen.

Me, I’d like to think Senator McCain got a brief glimpse at the future last night, as we did at home, and realized — finally — it’s all over but the voting.

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