Live-Blogging Saddleback - McCain


9.57 pm. McCain's evolution into a candidate who knows how to stroke the Christianist base is somewhat impressive. It was a little canned at times, but it will work with evangelicals. All in all, this struck me as pretty much a draw. But it also struck me that the questions could have been asked in a non-religious setting and by a real journalist who might have even followed up the questions and not allowed both candidates, but especially McCain, to go on anecdote auto-pilot.

By the way, McCain said he'd go to any venue in this campaign. Somehow, I doubt that.

9.55 pm. I don't mean to sound churlish but the cliches are pretty overwhelming at this point. America's best days are ahead ... etc etc. And then we get this strange peroration with the obvious refrain that the campaign has decided on: putting country first.

9.51 pm. Peerless answer on adoption.

9.46 pm. Why does the early Christian history of Georgia have anything to do with our decisions in foreign policy? He keeps mentioning it - so it's obviously a talking point. Weird. Like Russia isn't a predominantly Christian country? And his policy seems to be: send a message to the Russians. That appears to be it.

9.42 pm. So what is it: freedom or national security? And then he backtracks to say that national security is paramount - not everyone's freedom. In several areas, McCain's policy seems to be "all of the above." On the environment, he's for every policy option on the table. Ditto with education. What's not to like?

9.36 pm. "We've got to give them hope."

9.34 pm. Oy on the Congress joke and the bear research joke.

9.33 pm. "Rich" begins with income of $5 million. Obama said $150,000, as I recall. (Update from readers: Obama said that $150,000 and lower was where the middle class began. He defined rich as $250,000 or top 3-4% and above. Not sure what the people in the middle are.)

9.31 pm. I've never seen McCain this animated about education. He's doing very well.

9.21 pm. He cites his own state's position on marriage - but his own state voted down an anti-marriage equality amendment. And again, he simply says that gay couples can make "legal arrangements," and argues that gay couples should not be denied any of the rights of other citizens. But those "legal arrangements" can be overturned or removed by other family members without civil marriage rights. And he isn't asked about civil unions, the obvious follow-up. I get the feeling Warren simply wanted to get both on record against marriage equality. Again: no mention of the people whose relationships are the target of these amendments.

9.18 pm. It's going to be the cross in the dirt story! It's a beautiful story, and he pulled it off very well. But I have now heard it a million times.

9.13 pm. "It took a lot of prayer."

9.11 pm. How many times have I heard the pro-American president of France joke? And the Senate Miss Congeniality joke? God bless him, they're good jokes. But it's getting like your grampa at Thanksgiving.

9.10 pm. How weird that an evangelical audience would give its biggest applause so far on domestic oil drilling.

9.08 pm. Two early shots at Bush: on his shopping comment and on torture. Both men have now cited torture as an issue - to Warren's bafflement.

9.05 pm. A somewhat poignant self-criticism on his first marriage. Brilliant way to defuse the adultery issue in front of evangelicals, but he seemed to mean it too.

9.01 pm. He seems less at ease than Obama and his first answer - Petraeus and Whitman - was good, but not as natural as your mom and wife. But his humor shines through as always.

(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty.)