Posts Tagged ‘Presidential Debate’
McCain had the best line in the debate:
I am not President Bush, if you wanted to run against George Bush you should have done so four years ago.
I am surprised that he did not go for a further blow by pointing out Obama was not a member of Congress if he had wanted to run – echoing Hillary Clinton’s remark that all Obama did in 2004 was give a good speech. Instead we heard a lot about Joe the plumber and what the polices of the two contenders would mean for him on health care and tax.
Obama showed himself unflappable, not allowing himself to go off message or make a gaffe. McCain went for it more, and this was his best performance. However he allowed his temper to show, with a thin skin in the negative aspects of the campaign and his incessant blinking when he was giving a rehearsed debating point direct to camera looked like it was not natural to him. Obama is more able when doing to camera pieces. In fact some remark he is too calm, almost cool. An ability to empathise while remaining the ice man.
Yet fears of recession – with fears of a slow down in China – wiped out the recent gains in the stock market. That will probably have more of a bearing on the election than the debate tonight. McCain made the distinction between himself and Obama. McCain needed a clear plan for the economy when the crisis happened – however over the past three weeks he has failed to deliver. He needed not only to stand apart from Bush but be the man with a plan.
What was a telling difference between Obama and McCain was Obama saying that McCain would have the failed economic policies of the last eight years while he represents change prioritizing on what needs to work, while McCain saying that he is no George Bush but he has a longer record of bi partisan approach for change and knows how to do it- and would freeze all spending then line by line go through government spending.
Which message voters responds to will decide the vote. But if people draw distinctions between McCain and Bush expect him to have a bounce back in the polls. If McCain can deliver a critique on economic policy and how he can change it for the middle class he could regain the initiative
The thing is Obama looks like the real thing when it comes to change. Tonight McCain played on the big government liberal spender image of Democrats, and that Obama did not have a record to back up the leadership qualities for the Presidency – including taking on your party, and leading the charge for change.
The last two debates Obama has won; narrowly in the first, clearly in the second. This last one I would say a tie. McCain came out swinging with his heart on his sleeve. He has given a good reason for the Republican base to come out and vote for him. Obama responded clearly and thoughtfully, taking odds with McCain rejecting vocuhers in education and stating that a tax credit for purchasing health care would collapse health care provision.
Staying up till 4 am to watch Senators Obama and McCain debate in a town hall setting may seem extreme. There was no need for coffee to get through this, the adrenalin being that one of these men will in January 2009 be making decisions that will impact not just the USA but the global community. The stakeholders in this are more then just the American voters.
As the mud slinging of the last few days suggested, McCain went for Obama’s record on everything from environment to taxation, and pointing out that he had been a rebel with a cause against the leaders of his party. That however gave Obama the cover to act like he was responding to McCain’s personal attacks – though he did so impassioned and matter of fact. McCain came out swinging, while Obama kept dancing timing jabs just right but looking to keep ahead on points.
Both candidates kept to the Queens bury rules of nothing below the waist. There was no mention of Bill Ayers or Charles Keating. If you kept your eye off the fists, you could see the policies that they were suggesting. Obama saying that energy was a top national security issue, not just environment. McCain not trusting federal government to be as effective as the private sector. People may moan that there were no specifics of how they would do these things. What they did not mention, especially in McCain’s up beat assessment of America, is that the global financial crisis may make it exceedingly difficult to effect real change.
Obama looked Presidential, standing straight looking people in the eye. He was focused on the significance of the question, and saying what he would do about it, though at times he kept referring to people as if they were separate from him, saying you most of you, explaining at one point that his wealth and health plan as a senator gave them a difference in quality of life that should be available to all when it came to to coverage and opportunity. McCain was more trying to come across as one of the people, constantly saying my friends, shaking the petty officer’s hand thanking him for serving his country. McCain’s movement while answering questions seemed like he did not know what angle he should be facing the questioner or the hall. If Obama’s movement was panther like, McCain’s was like a wound up toy.
That difference came across especially in the manner in which they listened to the other respond. Obama sitting on his chair, listening – confident while engaged. McCain in contrast was constantly moving, fidgeting, ready to keep going, writing things down on the note pad. At one point when asked to list priorities on health, energy and education McCain wrote them down. This body language contrast made Obamam look magisterial while McCain looked agitated. At one point, when pointing out that he had not supported Bush’s environmental plan, he indicated that the person who had by pointing to Obama and saying “That one”.
Earmarks was the one thing that McCain came back to again and again. However, $18 billion of government spending seems insignificant when you consider that Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae and the current bail out are about $1.5 trillion. McCain should have been locked in a room with economic and financial ad visors for 48 hours and use this debate as a chance to outline an economic policy. He missed that opportunity – though the $3 million dollar projector earmarked that Obama had supported (though not voted as it never went that far) for the Adler Planetarium to replace their whole system, which was beyond repair being 40 years old.
There were many jabs that Obama could have given, but perhaps like Ali watching a prize fighter already
falling it may have seemed undignified. McCain kept linking himself to Regan, perhaps hoping that association would appeal to former Regan Democrats. However, just like being in the same room as a former terrorist does not make you one, knowing former Presidents does not make you one either.
Overall this seemed a more clear win for Obama then the last debate – the assured body language in the town hall format gace him a clear edge over McCain. He also managed to come across older then he is – in a positive way, while McCain was pacing. Just listening to what they said the result would be closer. McCain went on the attack, and voters looking for reasons not to support Obama and trust an experienced politician wanting change may well still go for McCain. The problem is that undecideds are becoming less and less as polling day draws – meaning that people changing their minds will be a crucial factor come election day. On a score system I would give Obama 3.5/5 and McCain 2.75/5 – McCain needed to offer a vision not just an assured competence based on experience to win this debate, while Obama had to look like he was ready. Instead McCain looked like someone that knows they are failing a job interview and falls back on their CV to try and turn it around rather than selling themselves as a person.
|Writer||Verdict||McCain score||Obama score|
|Moe Lane, RedState||“McCain got some good shots in with Fannie/Freddie, Obama got a good moment or two betraying the progressives over nuclear power, offshore drilling, and Israel. I’ll give the closing statement to McCain, but Obama humanises amazingly when he’s talking about his wife. No insanely bad howlers this go-round. This was, in fact, kind of boring all around.”||***||***|
|Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic||This debate was “devastating and possibly electorally fatal” for John McCain – a “wipe-out”. The Democratic candidate came out on top on substance, clarity, empathy, style and authority. Mr McCain appeared “a little out of it”.||*||*****|
|Hugh Hewitt, Townhall||Mr McCain made up a lot of ground in this debate. He was strong on two of his most important points – taxes and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Obama appeared cautious and evidently inexperienced. The Republican finished stronger, while Mr Obama “flailed about ineffectively”.||*****||*|
|Jim Geraghty, National Review blog||“Generally dull… and a bunch of answers that were very predictable to those of us who have been following this race. Because he’s trailing, we needed to see something different from McCain tonight. It wasn’t a bad night for him, and most of his answers were fine. But there wasn’t anything that any of us are going to remember in a couple of days.”||**||**|
|Jennifer Rubin, Pajamas Media||“Fireworks there were not. The debate lagged and dragged and at times was downright dull. The most decisive moment on national security occurred at the end where McCain bonded with a chief petty officer questioner and pledged to support Israel in defending itself against a nuclear-armed Iran.” But Mr McCain did himself some good in the debate. The “polished orator” Barack Obama, meanwhile, “fumbled” an easy final question.||****||**|
|Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo||“A marginal victory for Obama on points,” says Josh Marshall, but a “substantial” one in terms of the overall race. “McCain did fine. I think his supporters will think he put in a solid performance. But the bottom line is that right now McCain is losing. He has to shake things up. But he didn’t.”||**||****|
|Robert Shrum, Huffington Post||“The reality of this debate is that McCain didn’t pass the threshold on the economy. He can’t get there with blather about earmarks; the voters aren’t dumb. The big story tonight: Americans are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of President Obama.”||*||*****|
The scores assigned to the candidates represent the BBC’s interpretation of the writers’ comments. One star indicates a poor performance, five stars an excellent one.[BBC News]
CNN’s poll of debate-watchers found 54% said Mr Obama had done the best job, compared with 30% for Mr McCain.
CBS’s poll of undecided voters suggested 39% thought Mr Obama the winner, with 27% for Mr McCain and 35% calling it a draw. [BBC News]
McCain needs to work on his material and stature if he is going to be the comeback kid in these debates. However, if his campaign can sow enough seeds of doubts about Obama’s record then he may yet win the undecided and the leaning voters. Time though is running out to swing enough of them in the key marginal seats.
One month to go and it is all out assault – Obama had biscuits with a terrorist on a charity board, and McCain helped out a financial swindler.
Barack Obama accused John McCain of “smear tactics” and said he was not paying enough attention to the economic crisis that has been gripping the US.
John McCain said Mr Obama was “lying” about his ties to the home loan industry and asked what his rival had ever accomplished in government.[BBC News]
Will this mudslinging go into tonight’s Presidential debate? McCain has stated that the gloves are off: “For a guy who has already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book”. Obama, making it into a prize fight for the White House stated: “We don’t throw the first punch, but we’ll throw the last”.
Yet the window dressing is not as significant as the movement in the polls. The BBC report above states that Obama is 6% ahead in Ohio in the Washington Post poll – a state which if Obama wins then the White House is his.
What the BBC does not mention is the range of polls for Ohio which are: [source]
|Poll||Date||Sample||Obama (D)||McCain (R)||Spread|
|RCP Average||09/24 – 10/05||–||48.7||45.2||Obama +3.5|
|FOX News/Rasmussen||10/05 – 10/05||1000 LV||47||48||McCain +1|
|ABC News/Wash Post||10/03 – 10/05||772 LV||51||45||Obama +6|
|Columbus Dispatch*||09/24 – 10/03||2262 LV||49||42||Obama +7|
|SurveyUSA||09/28 – 09/29||693 LV||48||49||McCain +1|
|Quinnipiac||09/27 – 09/29||825 LV||50||42||Obama +8|
|InAdv/PollPosition||09/29 – 09/29||512 LV||47||45||Obama +2|
The average has moved up from a 2% lead to 3.5% [blog on battle states]. Yet the wide range with polls (two declaring for McCain) the data that we have suggests that this could be closer then people are letting us think. The result being that everything including the kitchen sink is going to be thrown at the opponent before this election is over.
The format of the debate is a town hall with undecided voters especially catered for in the audience. The usual political towing and throwing is likely to turn off such an audience, and in the economic problems and security issues the next President will face seem out of touch, if not surreal. In toss up states, undecided voters that decide to vote could sway the result – if they unevenly break for McCain (my prediction is they will) the battle states would be within grasp.
We want the candidates to be tested, not with quips against each other, but with substance on what will be their guiding principles in office and what they are going to do. The first may be more important than the later as by the time January 2009 comes along the economy may not give scope to the plans that they have.
I have said that by mid October a 10% lead in the polls would give Obama the cushion he needs for a Mccain bounce and the margin of error which I predict could be higher in the polls then they have been for sometime. On the eve of the debate the polls stand:
|Poll||Date||Sample||Obama (D)||McCain (R)||Spread|
|RCP Average||09/30 – 10/06||–||49.6||43.8||Obama +5.8|
|Reuters/CSpan/Zogby Tracking||10/04 – 10/06||1237 LV||48||45||Obama +3|
|NBC News/Wall St. Jrnl||10/04 – 10/05||658 RV||49||43||Obama +6|
|CBS News||10/03 – 10/05||616 LV||48||45||Obama +3|
|CNN||10/03 – 10/05||694 LV||53||45||Obama +8|
|Gallup Tracking||10/03 – 10/05||2744 RV||50||42||Obama +8|
|Rasmussen Tracking||10/03 – 10/05||3000 LV||52||44||Obama +8|
|Hotline/FD Tracking||10/03 – 10/05||909 LV||47||41||Obama +6|
|Democracy Corps (D)||10/01 – 10/05||1000 LV||49||46||Obama +3|
|GW/Battleground Tracking||09/30 – 10/05||800 LV||50||43||Obama +7|
Tonight Obama needs to sound like a President – McCain has to land punches to make movement. The US (and the world) needs a leader not a political counter puncher. Yet Obama needs more than just words, he needs to show himself to be a man of action. Or else the lead he has will start to descend nearing polling day.
There is reality then there is the perception of that reality. Maybe all is bubble and foam, and that includes analysis of Presidential debates – there is no such thing as it being value free.
The debate can be watched in full here.
On that note, the fact that some call it for McCain, some call it for Obama, and the majority call it a dead heat is not as important as how the electorate perceived the debate they saw. On that note the polls suggest that Obama came out on top.
CBS Insta Poll shows Barack Obama won 39% to John McCain‘s 25% with 36% saying the debate was a draw.
Insider Advantage reports of those polled Obama won 42% to McCain’s 41% with Undecided 17%
CNN reports voter opinions that Obama “did better” 51%, McCain “did better” 38%
The CNN poll showed men were evenly split, but women gave Obama higher marks 59% to 41% for McCain.
Obama came across with authority, prepared to commit strikes in Pakistan. McCain was the one sounding like you need to build allies and not distance them from their own people. Obama retorting that lacked credibility from some one that sang bomb Iran.
McCain however came across as someone assured that he knew what he was doing on the world stage, while Obama came across as knowing how to say his message fro change. McCain though made the play of his experience in the Senate. The difference however was that Obama looked like the change canidate while McCain had the record for partisanship and with Palin a challenge to the usual Washington politic.
Here is just a sample of scorecards on the two candidates. The scores assigned to the candidates represent the BBC’s interpretation of the writers’ comments. One star indicates a poor performance, five stars an excellent one. :
|Writer||Verdict||McCain score||Obama score|
|Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress||“All things considered, it’s about a draw. McCain got a couple of good punches in and so did Obama. Insofar as the idea is supposed to be that McCain has a domineering advantage on national security he certainly didn’t prove that point. And for the candidate who’s losing, a tie amounts to a loss.”||***||***|
|Jim Geraghty, The National Review||Barack Obama failed in his main task – looking ready to take over on 20 January. His answers were halting early on and he “let his irritation / exasperation / disbelief” show, “it wasn’t quite the right tone”. Anyone wavering on McCain will have been “reassured a great deal”. In that sense it was a “major win” for him.||****||*|
|Kos, The Daily Kos||Barack Obama was very effective. He proved he as well-versed on foreign leaders and countries, despite Mr McCain’s continuous attacks that “Senator Obama doesn’t understand / doesn’t get it”. The debate “reinforced Obama’s fitness to be president”. This was not a loss McCain needed bearing in mind his “lagging” poll numbers.||*||****|
|Ezra Klein, The American Prospect||“I haven’t seen any poll or focus group that scored it for McCain. So Obama won. But… McCain was certainly more impassioned… His emotion, his passion, came from a nearly uncontrollable contempt for his opponent… He did an extremely good stylistic job in an extremely hard situation.”||***||****|
|Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post||A good night for both candidates. “Final verdict: McCain back from the dead, but not nearly enough to seize the momentum in a ‘change’ election… after the dust has settled, the economy will still be in free fall, McCain will still be the guy who 10 days ago thought the fundamentals of the economy are strong, and 83% of the country will still be looking for a change in direction.”||***||****|
|Hugh Hewitt, Townhall.com||It was a “strong McCain win”. He shined and put Barack Obama on the defensive. Obama “stumbled” on Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. McCain’s closing remarks, when he hit Obama for his stubborness, were “very strong”.||****||*|
|Michael Tomasky, The Guardian||“I’ve never been quite this confused about a debate in a long time… I thought each acquitted himself well on the other fellow’s terrain… I don’t think Obama’s win, if that’s what it was, was so decisive that the McCain team can’t reverse spin it.”||***||***|
|Gideon Rachman, Financial Times||The exchanges on the financial crisis were “feeble in the extreme”. McCain “became noticeably more confident and coherent, once the discussion switched to foreign policy”. Obama was “relaxed, coherent and showed flashes of humour” and overall performed well.||***||****|
Obama certainly gave crisp clear answers, rather than ones that seemed to try to bear in all the complexities of the issues that you kind of forgot what the question was. Polls indicate that when McCain went for the attack on Obama, support went down across the board. The CNN focus group this comes from suggests that McCain’s body language (looking away from Obama) did not play well, compared to Obama who looked directly at his opponent.
The big problem was that Obama seemed ready for office, he looked like a Presidential contender. I tried listening to the debate without visual. McCain came across better, but strangely the age difference between the candidates seemed more marked in their voice then in their appearance. Obama, youthful but assured. McCain experienced, but old and the clink of thoughts retrieved.
In short I would call the debate all things to all partisans – but in reality both men did well. Neither gave a knock out blow. But McCain needs to talk up why he should be commander in chief and lead the world’s biggest economy in global financial meltdown. Attacking his opponent does not seem to be working.
The bigger concern was that neither man seemed up to the task of grappling with the problems in the global economy. That, rather than foreign affairs, seems to be at the heart of American concerns. The only thing saving them is no one has a solid plan, and events rather then clear heads are leading the animal spirits let loose in the global community.
So who do I call it for? Well McCain did well in coming across as a man of experience. He could so easily have killed himself. His problem though is that Obama has grown, and in some ways Hillary Clinton may have to be thanked for that. Because without that tight race Obama may not have developed. He sounds like he has made it, he is not faking it. He is ready to be President.
If that holds up, then the McCain bounce that I think will come later in the campaign may have trouble overcoming an Obama lead. But there is still much left to go. Both sides can claim their man won, but in reality Obama was ahead by a whisker in a close to call debate. That however means that McCain is still going to stay where he is in the polls. His campaign needs him to start narrowing the lead, for a late surge to make victory possible.