Dayton Game: McCain Retakes Spotlight After Obama's Big Night

The "work" in workmanlike: "In substantive terms, Sen. Obama presented some long-standing and fairly conventional Democratic economic proposals, packaged as both more middle-class friendly and forward-looking than those offered by Republicans. He reiterated his call for a middle-class tax cut and an end to capital-gains taxes for small businesses and promised anew to spend $150 billion over the next decade to help develop alternative fuels," Gerald F. Seib and Christopher Cooper write in The Wall Street Journal.

"Tonight he didn't just ride the wave of change, he defined the change that the Democrats would bring, that he would bring as president," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said on "Nightline" Thursday. "He came out hard, he came out tough against John McCain on the economy and on foreign policy."

An A+ from Mark Halperin of Time and ABC News: "He is not a perfect candidate, but once again proved that he can, in the face of daunting expectations, deliver a simply breathtaking speech at an absolutely pivotal moment."

He said what he had to say: "To Sen. John McCain, the message was stark: He will meet his challenges on McCain's own terms," per ABC News. "To the country, his challenge was trickier: Accept this non-traditional candidate and channel your hopes into him. He offered a long list of policy proposals designed to appeal to the broad middle, and offered his own biography to answer the caricature being peddled by the McCain campaign."

"The speech rode a line between policy and personal revelation, between high-flown oratory and elbow-grease appeals to the working class voters who have stubbornly eluded him throughout the campaign," the Chicago Tribune's Jim Tankersley reports. "He slapped at rival John McCain even as he called for an end to Washington's partisan politics, including appeals for common ground on contentious issues: abortion, gay rights, gun control and immigration. And he addressed nearly every major criticism of himself and his campaign head-on."

He knew what he had to say: "Obama's tone was populist. The words he repeated most often included 'America and American' (40 times), 'you' and 'your' (58 times), 'our' (58 times) and 'promise' (31 times). And 'McCain,' repeated 21 times," USA Today's Susan Page writes.

"Voters do not cast ballots just to break historical barriers, and some might be reluctant to do so," writes columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. "Ultimately, Obama will stand or fall on his ability to rekindle the sense of possibility and aspiration that Hubert Humphrey spoke for 60 years ago and that has, all along, been Obama's central promise."

And what a setting: "The night sky brought an air of majesty to replace the summery festival feel of the late afternoon. While Mr. Obama spoke, people stopped texting and twittering to hear his words," Mark Leibovich writes in The New York Times.

Sayeth Oprah: "I've never experienced anything like that. . . . I think it's the most powerful thing I've ever experienced."

Spinning the expectations: "I wasn't looking for a huge bounce," Obama chief strategist David Axelrod tells Bloomberg TV. "I don't think there's a lot of play in this electorate." Key line: "Axelrod said the former president would be campaigning for Obama, though he wouldn't say whether they would campaign together."

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