Look, if you came to this debate recap expecting me to say that John McCain won the debate,,, you'd be wrong,,, but 17people will be fair,, so please read on.
Overall this was one lame debate. It could have been so great, but Jim Lehrer was not on his game tonight and despite one of the best debate formats we have ever seen that encouraged the candidate to talk and challenge each other,,, one of the two of them wanted NOTHING to do with the other.
More than that though,, the debate was boring, tedious, and above all inappropriate for the time and situation that we are in.
How did this debate did not talk solely on the economy? This is the issue of the time, this is what people are losing sleep over, and its not like there are not two other debates to discuss foreign policy.
As an Obama supporter I was hoping that foreign policy would be pushed or not discussed at all. That is McCain's turf and with Obama gaining on the economy, I didn't want the subject to change.
Yet, I underestimated Barack Obama as I actually think this ended up playing into his hands.
But I'll start where the debate started,, on the economy.
John McCain very effectively changed the conversation of the financial crisis that we are in during the debate.
He turned the financial crisis into a discussion on earmarks and government spending. Two areas he is strong on that are easy to talk about and easy to rally support for.
Spending and earmarks however, have NOTHING to do with what has happened on Wall Street recently. Lack of regulation, transparency, corruption in the private sector and banking industry are the causes.
John McCain deftly changed the subject and was able to hold his own.
Now I will say this, the longer the conversation is on the economy right now, is still a net plus for Obama. I think pundits have been too hard on Obama for the economic section. Though he still does not have that crystal clear message that would put him over the top.
Here's where I give you the point the pundits missed, at least the ones I saw. No analyst mentioned Obama's steadfast commitment to talking about health care. He must have mentioned this issue three or four times which is a lot for him as he doesn't repeat every answer like John McCain does.
Pushing health care in these debate is a MUST issue for Obama. It appeals to that middle class voter that Hillary Clinton was so effective at reaching. Bill Clinton said this week Obama has to get the people who voted for Hillary and health care is the one issue that will both get them and her and her people working harder for him which they need to do.
Health care is Hillary's issue and it is the issue of the populist part of the Democratic Party and the best news for the undecided or moderate voter,, Obama's plan, is much more moderate and easily implemented.
On to the foreign policy part of the debate...
When it comes to foreign policy this has been Obama's biggest deficit in the polls and the minds of others between him and McCain. The 'Commander in Chief' test Joe Biden called it afterwards.
Whether you agree with him or not, Barack Obama clearly passed this test. He knew the issues, he knew the players, and he eloquently elaborated where he stood on complex issues in these difficult times. He sounded like a Commander in Chief while standing next a great war hero and experienced voice on foreign policy.
More importantly he didn't back down on issues geeks like me care about. Like holding true on diplomacy,,, even with Iran. I wish he pounded him harder on the 'bomb, bomb, Iran' Beach Boy knockoff McCain did earlier. Like holding McCain accountable for pushing us into Iraq in the first place as opposed to acting as though 'the surge' is the only part of the war that counts.
Foreign policy is McCain's deal, his expertise, and Barack Obama more than held his own.
While I am more of an issues geek, I have also learned the hard way in politics that its not always what you say, but how you say it. Additionally in debates,, it's how you look, when you say what you say, and how you react when you listen to your opponent.
I remember being certain Al Gore won that first debate with George Bush in 2000. You may remember this debate because it was the 'sigh' and 'makeup' debate. While Gore grasped the issues and spoke much better, Bush won the 'impression test'.
He looked better and less arrogant and it gave people who watched, the impression that he won the debate.
In this debate, Obama clearly won the 'impression test'. McCain looked utterly uncomfortable the whole debate. Obama on the other hand looked calm, in control, and actually looked at his opponent.
One of the goals of this format,,, which was one of the better debate formats that I have seen was to get a more free flowing discussion. McCain, wanted nothing to do with Obama, and I think it's gonna hurt him on a night he was overall very good.
This is a big surprise to me considering that McCain has been crying for 'Town Hall Debates'.
If Obama did those town halls, would McCain look at him then?
And one final note. Some pundits criticized Obama for saying he agreed with McCain or gave him credit for too many things he agreed on.
Then I thought about a speech I heard this summer that had the following lines in it...
The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn’t a cause, it’s a symptom.
Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us.
I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again.
Instead of rejecting good ideas because we didn’t think of them first, let’s use the best ideas from both sides. Instead of fighting over who gets the credit, let’s try sharing it.
The man who said these lines,,, John McCain,,, in his acceptance speech at the RNC.
This debate performance showed none of the bipartisanship, deference, or class that he did in that speech.
The first debate was long and not that entertaining, but I felt going in a tie was a win for Obama and I really believe that in next couple days the polls and reaction will be slightly in favor of Obama which means it was a very good night for the Democrats.