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The First Debate: Advantage Obama

September 27, 2008

You’ve seen the beginning of the end, that is, if you don’t consider the nomination of Governor Sarah Palin as the GOP Vice Presidential candidate as such. McCain finished a miserable week of goofy grandstanding and being ethered by a late night talk show host with a grumpy, persnickety performance at tonight’s debate at Ole Miss.

This was considered to be an easy win for McCain despite Obama’s considered advantages at the one on one, nationally televised debate thing.

The deciding factor was not Obama’s perceived advantage at dealing with domestic issues. He did only slightly better even though allowing himself to be bullied into a corner on whether or not he is a “tax and spend” democrat. Knowing it’s the eldest tactic in the modern Republican playbook, it would have been better for him to let it slide and move on to noting the high unemployment numbers that have come to the fore under the Bush administration.

The deciding factor was not McCain’s perceived advantage with matters foreign and military. Obama only had to prove competence and knowledge, which everyone knows if you’ve had a job interview can impress when you lack actual experience. Moreover, Sen. Clinton’s loss proved that the “experience” argument wasn’t getting anywhere when people are after change. Does anyone think that simply traveling to Afghanistan means that you understand, or have good ideas about, what is going on on the ground there? I went to Amsterdam, does that mean I can now speak Dutch?

The deciding factor was McCain’s personality or lack thereof. It was Nixon all over again. It was Bob Dole. McCain allowed Obama to get under his skin by having an answer for everything McCain tossed at him, whether it was successful or not. Obama’s polite style of debate – “Why yes, that is an excellent point (for someone who isn’t very smart), however, you forgot . . .” – really seemed to hack McCain off, and at one point, he grumbled a sarcastic retort about subcommittees where he came off like a really upset Jan Brady.

Did anyone notice how many little one liners McCain tried? Did anyone notice that all of them failed? People who are not funny shouldn’t try to tell jokes, especially sarcastic ones. If you don’t have the people skills to be able to transmit that you’re attempting sarcasm, people will just think you’re an ass.

One sign that McCain was really not happy with Obama, or at least was afraid of him, is that he would not attempt eye contact. He just stood there, all clinched up like a sailor’s knot. There was no ease about him. He stumbled over names and he looked nervous, that that made people nervous.

It is the “people” that count, as two polls I saw last night, a CNN and a CBS poll showed that most believed Obama won this debate. Most important was the CBS poll taken of undecided voters. Ouch.

As the election nears and the poll numbers become harder, the laggards are looking for anything to help them make a decision. If they aren’t sure on the issues, they’re going to vote for who makes them feel most comfortable, even if it is a Black man with a Kenyan father and a White mother with degrees from elitist institutions. Perhaps McCain’s folly and Obama’s victory is based on elitism; that dude seems pretty smart (i.e. elite), I think I may vote for him.

Bradley/Gantt effect notwithstanding.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2008 7:22 am

    Its funny (or sad, take your pick) that after every poll, so many pundits talk about the Bradley effect. I lived in California during that election, so i am aware that it is in fact noteworthy. However, I kinda think there is a reverse Bradley effect possible, one that involves many whites being unable to admit to friends and family (and pollsters) that they may just take a chance on the black guy…seeing as how were in a mess and he seems pretty capable.

    A stretch? Yeah, maybe.

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