A town hall meeting was touted to be a favorable forum for Sen. John McCain in his debate against Sen. Barack Obama, but the venue did little to salvage what many pundits and viewers believe was an Obama opus.

Before a small and absolutely quiet audience of undecided voters on Tuesday evening at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, Obama, to use a boxing analogy, carried the aging warrior through several rounds, refusing to floor him when McCain left himself open for a knockout punch.

Sure, McCain got a few punches in, particularly at the very end when he turned to that old reliable jab about his war experience, or earlier when he proposed the government help individual homeowners avoid foreclosure, but it was too little and too late. And his stumbling and mumbling and referring to Obama as “That one,” did little to halt a trend that shows him trailing Obama in all the polls, the electoral count, and the battleground states.

Even diehard Republicans strategists such as Alex Castellanos and Leslie Sanchez rated McCain’s performance as only mediocre, while given Obama much higher grades.

Not only did McCain fail to improve his standings in the race for the White House, the various polls suggest that the independents, who may be a deciding factor, weighed in for Obama.

More than half of this second debate, moderated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw, centered on the economy and both candidates kept to their usual spiels, offering nothing revelatory, and making the same points they have made throughout the campaign.

Clearly, with the race moving closer and closer to the Nov. 4 deadline and with each of them firing off a barrage of nasty ads, the uncommitted voters are the targets, and to win them over we can expect that things will heat up considerably before they cool down. Already McCain’s running mate, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin has been relentless in her attacks on Obama, referencing a New York Times story and insinuating that his association, his “palling” around with Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground, revealed that Obama is “anti-American.”

McCain stayed clear of these innuendoes, perhaps leaving that assignment to Palin while he focused on foreign and domestic issues, and even attempts at humor that didn’t help his presentation at all. When Brokaw asked them how would they, as president, try to break bad habits of too much debt and too much easy credit, McCain cracked that “Well, you know, nailing down Sen. Obama’s various tax proposals is like nailing Jell-O to the wall,” he said. “There has (sic) been five or six of them and if you wait long enough, there will probably be another one.”

A tally of the length of the responses will probably show that Obama had far more to say, and it was said cohesively without all the repetitiveness that tended to follow McCain’s comments.

In the first debate, McCain fail to look at Obama after their handshake. This time, given the format, he not only looked at him but stalked about the stage, time and again nervously peeking at his notes, but mainly sticking to the script much in the manner of Palin’s resort during her debate with Sen. Joseph Biden, which many felt the Democrats won.

The final debate is next Wednesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead and there are many who believe that if McCain decides to truly take the gloves off and wade in for the a slugfest, Obama may stop his smooth, jab and parry, counterpunching, and go for the knockout, not chancing the pundits decision.

Then it will be O-BAM-A.