Boxing cliches are popular in Presidential debates and, using one, John McCain needed to score a knockout Tuesday night to avoid losing his second debate with Barack Obama.
He didn't get one. So he lost.
Like the economy that is sinking his Presidential hopes, McCain's campaign is in free fall and his performance Tuesday night did nothing to slow the plunge.
It's not that he did anything wrong. He held his own but that wasn't enough.
Republican John McCain expressed incredulity in the presidential debate Tuesday that Democrat Barack Obama would tip off the enemy by saying publicly that he'd attack al-Qaida in Pakistan under certain conditions. "Remarkable," McCain said during the presidential debate, meaning remarkably irresponsible.
Lost in his withering criticism: McCain took the same position as Obama, a year ago, when he said, "Sure. We have to," when asked if he'd go after Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Both candidates stretched facts, sometimes past the breaking point, as they addressed the financial crisis and misrepresented each other's position on health care during their second presidential debate.
Slipping in the polls, Republican John McCain has decided, as his exuberant running mate has repeatedly urged, to "take the gloves off," and Democrat Barack Obama, perhaps sensitive to charges that he is too often slow to counterpunch, has decided to reply in kind.
The result has been entertaining in a professional wrestling sort of way but short on voter enlightenment. To take two examples:
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has been videotaped palling around -- well, maybe not palling around, but certainly engaging in mutual discourse -- with a man known to have filed false income tax returns.
Obama has been seen in the company of Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
Nearly two decades later, John McCain is still haunted by his role in the Keating Five scandal.
His role in the 1980s banking scandal is featured in a new Barack Obama attack video. McCain's presidential campaign quickly moved to limit any damage.
The Republican senator's lawyer in the case, John Dowd, told reporters in a conference call Monday that McCain had been the victim of "a political smear job" by Senate Democrats.
GOP presidential nominee John McCain has past connections to a private group that supplied aid to guerrillas seeking to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua in the Iran-Contra affair.
McCain's ties are facing renewed scrutiny after his campaign criticized Barack Obama for his link to a former radical who engaged in violent acts 40 years ago.
Just before the vice-presidential debate, one of my more jaded and cynical colleagues proposed this question for Gov. Sarah Palin: "I hope they ask her how old she thinks the earth is."
I'm not sure if asking this question is any fairer or more germane than asking the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, if he really believes in the virgin birth. Or asking erstwhile presidential hopeful Mitt Romney whether he shares the Mormon belief that Native Americans are descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel.
By claiming that Democrat Barack Obama is "palling around with terrorists" and doesn't see the U.S. like other Americans, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin targeted key goals for a faltering campaign.
And though she may have scored a political hit each time, her attack was unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret.
First, Palin's attack shows that her energetic debate with rival Joe Biden may be just the beginning, not the end, of a sharpened role in the battle to win the presidency.
Democrat Barack Obama, responding to his portrayal by John McCain's campaign as a crony of "terrorists," fought fire with fire Monday by highlighting the Republican's embroilment in a devastating 1980s financial scandal.
A month from election day on November 4, the rivals traded furious barbs as Arizona Senator McCain battled to arrest his Illinois opponent's poll surge at a time of deep anxiety about the state of the US economy.
Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin went from winking hockey mom to snarling attack dog this weekend, tuning up the GOP smear machine with claims that Democrat Barack Obama "pals around" with terrorists and linking him with one of the founders of the Weather Underground.
The attack is not surprising, given the recent slide of John McCain and Palin in polls and Obama's surge as the economy takes center state as a major campaign issue.
What might be surprising, however, is the viciousness of the attacks. Obama, on the other hand, appears prepared for the onslaught.