Barack Obama merely needs to hold it together in this debate, and the following two, and he will likely be our next president. Whether justified or not (it’s not), the economic crisis is going to benefit the party that is not in the White House. When banks are closing, and people have to be thinking about whether they are over the FDIC insurance limit at any one institution, things are bad. The easiest way to register protest against that state of affairs, if you are the average voter whose main source of information is the mainstream media, is to vote for the guy with the D after his name.

That, and the fact Obama supposedly is going to have a much better ground game on November 4, and the Democrats have a huge head start in the critical vote fraud effort, means the status quo is a loss for John McCain.

McCain needs to dramatically break through the mainstream media filter with 1) strong, clear messages that will resonate with viewers and 2) at least one bone-jarring attack on Barack Obama that causes Obama to completely tweak.

In McCain’s favor are the facts that he is right about more issues than Obama and he is a better extemporaneous speaker. Off the cuff, Obama has a history of letting slip what he really thinks, which often, rightfully, comes off as highly repugnant to many Americans. He also has proven himself thin-skinned and easily rattled.

So McCain needs to hit on some topics that reveal the cracks in Obama’s facade. My suggestions are some inconvenient truths such as the following:

- The Annenberg-Ayers connection and general fact that the Obamas like people who hate America;

- The fact that Obama, despite his rhetoric, pays his female employees worse than either McCain or Hillary Clinton did;

- Obama’s abysmal record on Second Amendment issues;

- Any of Obama’s lies – here’s a set of them, and here are some more;

- Or any of the “Chicago machine” stuff, because of all the swipes “typical politician” seems to be one that cuts to the bone, probably because it is both extremely true and extremely ruinous to his carefully constructed persona.

I think any of these truths, clearly and calmly explained by McCain, will get Obama twitching, and one major instance of this in front of 40 million viewers will be the end of his viability as a candidate.

That’s not to say McCain can’t win the thing just by making the case for himself. He can be very persuasive and sincere when speaking off the cuff, and as at the Saddleback Church forum, this contrasts very favorably with Obama’s tendency to stumble for words and generally show muddled thinking.

But it does not seem like a very safe tactic to assume Obama is going to make himself look bad, and besides it would be better style to at least try and rattle him a few times – people love to see clay feet revealed, and this is one juicy target.