Oct. 15, 2008
"Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago."
Sen. John McCain to Sen. Barack Obama during the third and final presidential debate
For John McCain, the 2008 campaign was as much a struggle to escape from President Bush's enveloping shadow as it was to neutralize his opponent's claim to the mantle of change. In every stump speech and ad, it seemed, Barack Obama deftly tied the Republican to the incredibly unpopular President and McCain seemed powerless to cut the rope. Early in the third debate, however, McCain finally found an effective response, telling off Obama with uncommon clarity. "McCain has been trying for two years to highlight his differences with George W. Bush," wrote conservative pundit Byron York, "but only tonight...did he come up with a formulation so straightforward." Unfortunately for McCain, the breakthrough came just three weeks before Election Day too late to stop the mounting electoral tide, and the devastating reproach to the Bush years.