27 September 2008

You Don’t “Muddle Through” the Central Front of the War on Terror

Obama refers to McCain’s past statement that “the United States could ‘muddle through’ in Afghanistan.”


1. Obama took the first round--on the economy--after which McCain grew increasingly strong (and obviously more comfortable). McCain did quite well, so he should be pleased that he "blinked" and showed up for the debates.

2. Both candidates let loose with distortions of reality: here's AP's fact checker.

3. McCain's treatment of Obama was striking: at times condescending, at times sarcastic, he never looked directly at the senator from Illinois. What's up with that? And Obama was, at times, too courteous to McCain (on CNN, Bill Bennett called it "intellectually generous") in prefacing statements with lines such as "John is right [. . . .]"; such moments might be seen as weakness or an admission of faulty reasoning--especially when contrasted with McCain's refrain of "Senator Obama is wrong [. . .]" and "Senator Obama doesn't understand [. . . .]." Obama might want to find a new way to indicate his agreement with McCain's proposals. He could be more aggressive, but that could backfire. As Tom Shales says, "[i]f McCain had been more civil, and Obama were more combative and fervent, it would have been better still" (Washington Post).

4. Obama stood his ground, and he came across as confident, knowledgeable, and authoritative, which goes a long way towards disproving the "he's naive" label that the McCain camp has affixed to him.

5. CNN's graph, which measures the response of certain Republican, Democratic, and Independent viewers, is a pain in the neck.

Overall? Tie.

We'll have to wait a few days to see how the debate helped or hindered the candidates, but for now, regarding the debate itself, polls suggest that viewers found Obama the winner:

CBS Insta Poll shows Barack Obama won 39% to John McCain's 25% with 36% saying the debate was a draw.

Insider Advantage reports 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%

Ultimately, despite who is seen as "the winner," neither party should get too excited or downcast. You might recall that 2004's first presidential debate featured John Kerry and a flustered George W. Bush (the "it's hard work" debate). Kerry won that debate hands down, but he certainly didn't win the election.

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