Becker Blog

The world according to Brian Becker

In Debate, McCain Hangs Himself With Iraq.

Posted by Brian Becker on September 27, 2008

Overall tonight I think Obama was the clear winner of the debate. Of course, since I’m a liberal that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but putting myself in the shoes of an objective observer I still honestly think Obama came out ahead.

I think that both McCain and Obama had their best debate performance yet, but this debate did not sway any voters from the opposite party to either candidate. Who they needed to win tonight is those independent and undecided voters who are just now tuning into the election, and Obama came out ahead there. McCain hanged himself with his debate about Iraq policy. The way McCain talks about Iraq is exactly like Bush has talked about Iraq for the entirety of the war, and that turns off those key voters I talked about. He talks about it like it will be an endless occupation, and any talk of leaving will just embolden the terrorists. This is a deeply unpopular position among the American people these days, and Obama took him to task on it. Probably the best part of the debate for Obama was when he listed the things McCain said about Iraq and after each one said forcefully “You were wrong, John.” Any rebut by McCain after that about Obama’s perceived naivety on foreign policy seemed to lack credibility from thereon out.

During the economic portion, neither candidate seemed especially strong, but again I don’t think McCain connected with anyone but his base on that issue. He misrepresented Obama’s tax plan and railed on pork barrel spending for the majority of the discussion. I really don’t think budget cutting hits the right notes with the people who are hurting out there. I realize that is McCain’s image, as a maverick railing against earmarks, but I just don’t think that has much play with the average person. He never once mentioned the middle class. Meenwhile, Obama was relegated to defending himself for most of the economic discussion. He tried to hammer home the message of bottom up economics and the failures of conservative economic ideology, but he didn’t hit it hard enough or with enough passion.

The only part I think McCain bested Obama on was the portion on Russia. McCain just seemed more knowledgeable about it than Obama did, and I think a lot of people regard Russia as a bully, so McCain’s rashness helps him there where it probably hurts him in areas like meeting with our enemies.

Neither candidate stumbled or stuttered, which was a little surprising considering how awful Obama performed in his last debate with Clinton. He was very declarative and less thoughtful than he was at the Rick Warren forum, which most believe Obama struggled with. That said, his answers were not simpleminded. He had a good grasp on the facts and it showed.

The tempermant issue also showed up with regards to McCain. He never once looked at Obama, as if in disrespect for his opponent. Some have suggested that this is because he didn’t want to lose his cool, and I think that theory might have some merit. We will have to see if he changes it up in the next debate. Obama on the other hand looked and confronted McCain frequently while speaking. He seemed very confident in himself, which is reassuring to a lot of people.

Like I said, I don’t think this debate made anyone switch party lines, but Obama held his own in McCain’s home court. At the very least most objective observers would say the debate was a tie, which in itself is a win for Obama because many who have not yet made up their mind cite Obama’s experience or readiness as reasons they aren’t sold on him yet. McCain didn’t connect to the undecideds at all. His foreign policy is the same as Bush’s and he didn’t bother to try to distance himself from any of Bush’s failures either. That is why I think Obama is the clear winner of the night.


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