John McCain has triumphed in a fair share of debates with a comfortably combative style, biting rhetoric, and a willingness to distort his opponents' views, writes Katharine Q. Seelye in the New York Times. He does best on matters of foreign policy—the topic of Friday's debate—and often brings in his captivity in Vietnam while answering wholly unrelated questions. But when debates stray from his favorite issues, McCain can seem wooden and uninterested.
Lagging in the Republican primary, McCain used the debates effectively to paint Mitt Romney as ineffectual and himself as a fearless warrior. But his tough, irascible style can get McCain in trouble if he fails to restrain his temper. If Barack Obama, a quarter-century younger, goads him, he might well expose what one professor calls "that negative, slashing, awkwardly grinning McCain."