Archive for October 16th, 2008
First the post-debate poll results.
CNN: Obama 58 – McCain 31
CBS: Obama 52 – McCain 22
This is one of the widest margins of any of the debates, and thirty minutes into the debate I’d have predicted otherwise. McCain came out strong early, and Obama clearly was playing it safe. I was already thinking about my post-debate critique. It would be either McCain wins, or perhaps a draw. I’d note it would mean a tightening race, and compare Obama to a football coach that plays it too safe too early.
But after the first half hour it was all Obama. First, McCain spoke primarily to his base. The stuff about class warfare, William Ayres, etc., will rile up the hard core Republicans who can’t understand why these issues don’t get everyone moving away from Obama. More importantly, McCain appeared fidgety, angry, had inappropriate facial responses while Obama was talking, and just seemed a bit strange. I believe this is why the CNN poll shows Obama being seen as “more likable” by 70%. McCain didn’t fall so far behind on points — Obama was playing it safe, trying to make sure that he avoided being too negative or doing anything that could be read as unpresidential — but he appeared more the grumpy old man than the dignified President.
This was also seen in the response to the question asking each to compare their Vice Presidential choices. The most negative thing Obama could say about Palin was that “The American people would decide” if she was qualified. McCain went heavily negative on Biden about foreign affairs of all things. Obama appeared Presidential, at best McCain’s attacks appeared Vice Presidential.
McCain did get the best line with the “I’m not George Bush” response, but as the debate wore on his smiles seemed forced and it appeared he was getting downright angry at times. His strongest argument was that Obama was too liberal, but he again talked to the base.
So what next? McCain blew the debate. He needed to be steady and Presidential, instead he looked emotional and desparate. Obama needed to stay cool and disciplined, and he did. So in terms of the McCain comeback strategy I outlined a few days ago, McCain’s already failed to deliver on his first task. Now, baring some kind of totally unexpected development, Obama is likely to cruise to victory.
Still, McCain has to finish the game. Unless things move his way soon, the goal has to shift from winning the election to protecting incumbants in Congress. That means the RNC shifting funding away from support of McCain towards important Congressional races, and McCain and Palin need to focus their schedule on what helps the party, not what gets them elected. It’s not there yet — McCain has another week to try to at least show some movement in the polls. But after this debate, Obama is in a commanding position.