In general-election debates, it’s a losing strategy to “rally the base.” That’s what your own campaign events, and your fund-raisers, and your targeted ads, and your running mate are for. Especially by the time of the second and third debates, the job is to “rally the center.” That’s where most of remaining persuadable and undecided voters are, claims The Atlantic.

Obama took every opportunity to steer questions back from campaign tactics to governing issues, to talk about “working together” to deal with those issues, and to suggest encompassing rather than polarizing approaches to them.   He took every opportunity to identify areas where he and John McCain actually agreed on approaches.  He took most opportunities to remain calm, to stay above the fray, to seem amused rather than frazzled, not to take personal offense.

If you go down the same list, you can see that McCain did just about the opposite on every one of the counts. His most effective rhetorical line was that if Obama wanted to run against President Bush, he could have done so four years ago.

McCain did not help himself with a number of lapses and minor gaffes, from the nature of Trig Palin’s disability to the policy of the DC schools. Nor his Tourette’s-like perseveration with  the dreaded “overhead projector” in Chicago and hyperbole about Ayers and ACORN, which is allegedly “destroying the fabric of our democracy.”

Read the full story here.