October 16, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Not debatable: Gloves off, Dow down

There was little debate in newsrooms about the top news today: The final presidential debate and the stock market’s second-worst plunge.

In GOP candidate John McCain’s home state of Arizona, The Dispatch reported “Both take off the gloves” with a sidebar called “Check their facts” inside. (On the same page, a story about a debate among candidates for the state House said, “Politicians turn from kitty cats to pit bulls.” No mention of lipstick, however.)

“Final debate gets tough and personal,” said the North County Times in Escondido, Calif., with a dramatic photo of the candidates and debate moderator Bob Schieffer. The lead story was “Yet another precipitous Dow plunge.”

“McCain doesn’t seal the deal,” said the Los Angeles Times’s front-page analysis.

“Verbal fisticuffs,” said the Los Angeles Daily News, with a boxing theme that was echoed in other newspapers.

The San Diego Union-Tribune presented the debate facial expressions of Democratic candidate Barack Obama and McCain, with “As McCain presses, Obama parries in sharp exchanges.”

“Red October,” said the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, with a simple yet elegant graphic reflecting the grim stock market month atop its debate package labeled, “Offense …” for McCain and “… Defense” for Obama.

Many newspapers concluded it was Joe the Plumber, a man whose question to Obama about tax policy became a debate theme, who was the star of the debate. “Battle for Average Joe,” said the Chicago Sun-Times.

That would be Joe Wurzelbacher of Ohio, and Toledo’s Blade had a story on his thoughts about the debate.

The Seattle Times summed up Joe’s significance: “Who is Joe the plumber? An Ohio man looking to buy a business became a symbol of the middle class.”

The Yakima Herald-Republic in Washington took a cue from Eastern religious philosophy, tagging the final debate “The Tao of Joe.”

prhule@newseum.org Patty Rhule is a project editor at the Newseum.

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