Joe “the plumber” Wurzelbacher “achieved sudden national fame in the final presidential debate,” said Vaughn Ververs in CBS News online, “but it was John McCain who needed the headlines.” McCain had a good night, effectively using Joe, an actual plumber from Ohio, to hammer Barack Obama as “a tax-and-spend class warrior.” He also landed some base-pleasing blows against an “almost too cool” Obama on William Ayers and ACORN. Was it enough?

“McCain’s less-bad debate performance won’t change the downward arc of his campaign,” said Joan Walsh in Salon. Bludgeoning Obama with Joe the Plumber was “more farce than fierce,” and some of his angry attacks—like on the mother’s health exception for late-term abortions—backfired. “McCain needed a big win.” Snap polls showed he lost.

Lost? said Erick Erickson in RedState. “McCain mopped the floor with Barack Obama”—finally! Obama seemed annoyed, like he thought he’d already been elected, while McCain “looked like the comeback kid.” Ronald Reagan overcame a similar poll deficit to beat Jimmy Carter. If he keeps hammering on “ridiculous spending,” McCain can win, too.

Thank heaven the last debate is over, said Rod Dreher in BeliefNet’s Crunchy Con. Sadly, “so is the McCain campaign.” McCain “came off as sour, agitated, and petulant” when we need a “solid, experienced hand at the wheel.” With his years in office, you’d think he’d fit that bill. But after watching him, if those are your criteria, “you’ll want to vote for Barack Obama.”