Debate Roundup

Posted 10/16/2008 by Sumner in Labels: , , ,
Last night in the debate, John McCain had his last shot at salvaging his slipping Presidential campaign, but he failed. Sadly for Republicans, his biggest failure was not on policies but on personality, demeanor, and attitude. As I've said before, McCain is a cranky, angry old man who is trying to claw his way back into the race.

With this in mind, I would now like to explore some of my observations and thoughts about the 3rd Presidential debate:

I honestly believe that John McCain won the first half of the debate, when it was focused on the economy. This was Barack Obama's issue to win, but he failed to clearly articulate his plan and show how John McCain's would make the economic crisis worse. Obama continues to reiterate that 95% of the population (below $250,000/year) would have lower taxes, but he never seems to take it a step farther and say what that actually means. Although it got old and repetitive, I feel as though McCain's repetition about Obama's tax policy (be it true, or not) actually resonated with the average viewer. McCain was able to play to the common belief of the "tax and spend" Democrat.

I think McCain had something with "Joe the Plumber," but he didn't employ it to his greatest potential. I wonder if Joe the Plumber = Joe Six-pack. Was this McCain's way of drawing paralles to Palin's statements in the VP debate without using the loaded term "Joe Six-pack." The problem with Joe the Plumber is that he is middle class, and the reality is that no matter how you twist it, McCain's plan would not save him taxes and would give him worse options with the all important issue of health care. McCain's failed to portray Joe the Plumber as the kind of middle class American that would actually support his policies. By the end of the debate, the term Joe the Plumber no longer resonated with the viewer because he or she had now heard it about 20 times. Of course it doesn't help the day after that Joe has been all over the media and not been the save all answer that McCain had hoped for.

I think that Obama won the health care debate, but he didn't maximize on his opportunities. All Obama had to do when criticizing McCain's plan was state the simple fact that the average family pays $12,000 in premiums per year, which is only marginally covered by the $5,000 tax credit that McCain suggests is the answer. Just by stating some of the numbers, Obama could have shown that a family at the poverty level (around $30,000) is currently asked to spend a third of their income on health care, and McCain's plan only covers a marginal portion of this. Obama was able to come across as more adept at talking about health care, but it seems as though he missed some of the obvious points that could have made it clearer to the American people.

The one blatant error that I caught was McCain referring to the fact that Obama failed to approve Justice Breyer. Does McCain not know that Breyer was nominated back in 1994 during Clinton's first term? Maybe McCain meant to say Miers, but even that seems inexcusable. Whether or not it was a simple slip up or a true error on McCain's part is unknown, but if nothing else is makes him appear distant and out of touch to anyone who knows their Supreme Court history.

I enjoyed the question about Roe v. Wade. I think this was the first time that either candidate has been forced to address this issues that so many people have strong feelings about. Although this would not be near the top of the agenda for either candidate, it was nice to see them both have to articulate their views on a deeply polarizing issue. I think Obama hit it out of the park.

The most interesting thing that everyone was looking for in the debate was whether or not McCain would bring up William Ayers. As promised, he did. Not only did he bring up Ayers, but the debate took an unnecessary tangent that failed to move the political discourse forward. I think Obama responded like he should have. He stated the fact and the absurd reality that he was 8 years old when Ayers was a "domestic terrorist." Should we investigate what some of McCain's friends did when he was 8 years old? It was a pure waste of time in the debate. My only hope is that we can move past these charges and focus on the issues that the American people deserve to hear about.

McCain's greatest weakness last night was his physical and verbal bitterness. While he may have held his own for the most part on the issues, he came across a desperate angry man. His facial expressions were priceless as if he was simultaneously the wise grandfather looking down on his ignorant grandchild and the whiny little six year-old who wanted his candy back. His attacks on Obama were often not even substantive; they were personal. He talked condescendingly as if his plan was right because he said so and Obama was just flat our wrong. There was no room for debate or consideration; McCain was right, Obama was wrong, and there was nothing else to be said. McCain should no better. As much as they probably should not, body language and perception by the audience can often be more influential to than the actual policies that one articulates.

Final thought: I think McCain had a better closing statement than Obama. While this is true, I don't think he delivered anything along the lines of "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" I think this was McCain's best debate, possible Obama's worst, but Obama still managed to eek out a victory. I don't expect the polls to change much following the debate. If all goes as it appears, Obama will win by around 6 percentage points on November 4th.

1 comment(s) to... “Debate Roundup”


Anonymous said...

Nice analysis. I thought McCain meant Alito when he said Breyer. Whatever he meant, it was one the very few gaffes of the debates. McCain sounded ok for the most part but he didn't look good. Obama was better at taking advantage of the fact that they were on tv. Then there's the problem of issues for McCain. For him to deal the body blow to Obama that could change everything had to be something outside of the core issues that were being debated. He had to try Ayers but that was never going to stick.

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