McCain hits hard but debate lacks game-changer

NASHVILLE, October 8, 2008 (AFP) – John McCain hammered away at unruffled front-runner Barack Obama in Tuesday’s second presidential debate but failed to land the cutting blow likely to revive his sliding poll numbers. Gallup’s daily tracking poll Tuesday reflected the high stakes for McCain, giving Obama a nine point lead nationally, while the Democratic nominee is also widening his edge in key battleground states.

The under-pressure Republican White House hopeful came armed with an ambitious 300-billion dollar surprise plan to buy up the bad American mortgages which helped to tip the global economy into crisis.

But the initiative, an apparent bid by McCain to twist Obama’s advantage on the economy in his favor, made few ripples in a sometimes muted debate which got most heated in clashes on the financial crisis, Pakistan and Iraq.

McCain was under intense pressure to throw his sliding campaign a lifeline, as he trails Democrat Obama by widening margins in national polls and in battleground states with time running out before the November 4 election.

Snap polls by US television networks awarded the debate, the second of a trio of presidential clashes to Obama, who seemed as comfortable as his rival i