Thursday, October 16, 2008

Second Thoughts on the Last Presidential Debate

With the final Presidential debate of this election over, it's time to wrap up this series of blog posts about them.

- The media said John McCain needed a "game-changer" in this debate to try to erase the deficit in the polls, but I don't buy that. As I've stated before, McCain has won his previous two debates and Sarah Palin won hers. With Barack Obama not being known this election year as a finisher and with the scandals swirling around him, Obama needed the "game-changer" because he wasn't putting McCain away with what he was doing. Sure, some polls have Obama ahead by double digits, but I don't think those polls are as accurate as some think they are. Obama needed a win last night to give credence to the polls his supporters cling to as proof that the election is over.

- From the outset, McCain went on the offensive, and it looked like he liked it. A few times, NBC (and possibly other networks) showed a split screen of the facial reactions of one candidate while the other was speaking. McCain was smiling and mugging for the camera for a good portion of the night, but when he spoke, you could tell he was quite comfortable being the aggressor.

- How did Obama react to being on the defensive? Not nearly as well. In the previous Presidential debates, Obama never quite got rolling and relied heavily on inserting his talking points into his responses, regardless of whether the talking points matched the questions asked. This may have satisfied Obama's supporters and independents who weren't paying attention, but to people who paid attention, he looked like he couldn't adapt to the situation. Not too Presidential, Senator Obama.

- The star of last night's debate was Joe the Plumber. Both candidates mentioned the man who Obama talked to on a rope line and told Obama would "spread the wealth" if elected President. This was a dumb comment by Obama, and thanks to the advent of video sharing websites like YouTube, it became nationally-known. But, it should be pointed out that no matter how Obama tried to spin his comment, he lost Joe the Plumber's vote that day by not being as compassionate to the middle and lower classes as he says he is on the stump.

- In the three debates, Obama relied on a lot of talking points, but none was more annoying to me than when he started off a number of his responses to McCain by saying, "There's a lot to cover" or words to that effect when McCain brought up many of Obama's contradictions and questionable tactics. Of course there was a lot to cover, Senator. You've spun quite a few tales!

- The John Lewis comments comparing McCain and Palin to segregationists were an issue. McCain pressed Obama to denounce his and other comments made by his surrogates, but Obama tried to turn the tables by saying Sarah Palin had made some questionable comments about him. He even went so far as to comment about some of the comments made at McCain rallies like "terrorist," "socialist," and "kill him." But what Obama didn't mention was that McCain has denounced such rhetoric, often at the point at which such rhetoric was uttered, while Obama has only released statements from his campaign. In other words, Obama holds Sarah Palin to a higher standard of behavior than he holds himself.

- Another annoying tendency of Obama is that he kept bringing up Bush and his "failed economic policies of the last 8 years." McCain took that on with a great line. "Senator, I'm not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." It's comments like these that will stick with voters. And when McCain pointed out that things were pretty good economically until Democrats took control of Congress, that's the one-two punch that should resonate with voters.

- Joe Biden made an appearance at the debate last night. No, he wasn't on stage, but his foreign policy expertise came into question. Obama said he believed Biden had the foreign policy gravitas and would rely on it, but McCain rightly pointed out that Biden's foreign policy initiatives, such as the three state Iraq idea, weren't that great. To political junkies like me, it's these little things most people would pass over that shape the quality of the ticket. And if Obama is relying on Biden for foreign policy, we'll be in deep trouble if the two of them win.

- Along with Biden, William Ayers and ACORN reared their ugly heads in the Presidential debate. McCain was right to bring them up so Obama could explain away their connections to him. And Obama fumbled. He tried to downplay Ayers's past as a domestic terrorist and openly lied about his ties to ACORN as simply one of a lawyer-client relationship in 1995. With the reporting done on both stories, anybody who paid attention and was being intellectually honest would know he not just lied about their clear connections to him, but that he failed to convince people that those connections were as innocent as he made them out to be.

- I do need to bring up the job Bob Schieffer did as moderator last night. I put him somewhere between Tom Brokaw and Gwen Ifill. He did a good job for the most part keeping things on an even keel, but there were times when he let a little partisanship slip to try to help Obama. Overall, I thought Schieffer was fair and allowed each candidate time to speak without letting the emotions and the politics of the moment get too heated.

So, who won? Would McCain make a clean sweep of it, or would Obama finally get a win? I'll be accused of partisanship, but I've been accused of worse, so...

Get out the broom, Senator McCain, because you swept Obama. When it came down to it, Obama kept doing what he was doing in spite of the fact it really didn't work, and McCain took his message directly to the country. Obama came off as smug, not mentally flexible, and completely dismissive of the people he needed to connect with last night. McCain, at times, looked disdainful of Obama, but when he was on and answering questions, he was making the best case he could for himself, and it was good enough to win.

Whether it will be enough to win the election will be seen.

Hang on, kids! We're in for a bumpy three weeks!

No comments: