Now this is serious Saturday morning quarterbacking, but would Obama have been better off if he had agreed with McCain to postpone the debate?
Since the market meltdown took hold a week or so ago, Obama's number have gone up or improved, while McCain's have slipped. No more irrational exuberance about NY or NJ being "in play" now.
Why? Because the narrative was about something McCain had substantially gotten past--discussing the shortcomings of the Bush administration. On this front, Obama had only to keep the story going to force McCain off message. And the story needed no input from Obama to keep going.
McCain's campaign suspension and return to DC was an acknowledgement that this problem was was not going to be maneuvered around, and dealing head on with the Bush/Paulson plan was the one viable approach to take. And once he was in DC, he needed to show a committment to spending time and effort on crisis resolution.
So, given this, why wouldn't a debate delay have kept a good narrative for Obama alive a few more days.
Plus, with public sentiment running strongly against delaying the debate Obama could have made McCain pay a price here, begrudgingly acceding to the delay while casting McCain as the party "not ready to stand before the voters and defend his agenda". (So much for those town halls which were never scheduled). "It is unfortunate the disarray in the Republican party has now reached such a level that we can't even have debates, since they need Senator McCain to try and bail out the President on this issue".
Mac could have been cast as the impediment here, in the "no good deeds go unpunished" department.
By the time the debate happened Obama would have enjoyed more good news cycles as the young man in a hurry, while casting McCain the janitor trying to clean up Bush's mess. And "Bush's mess" is the sole saleable rationale for swing voters to pick an inexperienced liberal Democrat.
Now the debate is the narrative, and whatever the punditocracy's assessment, it cannot be better for Obama than the narrative he had last week,
As an old real estate lawyer, I can tell you that you need to grasp in that business when the other side has accidently or unavoidably made a concession they are going to regret and say yes before they change their mind. But this is a skill set one does not need to write for the Harvard Law Review.