Final Debate Reactions
Some debate reactions:
I like John McCain. There aren’t many conservatives who agree with me—some support him because of Sarah Palin, others because they dislike Barack Obama, others because he’s the GOP nominee. But I’m proud to be supporting him, and I think he’s a good candidate. I disagree with him on many issues, and I won’t forget that—but Reagan aside, I think that he is as good a candidate as the GOP has ever had.
I’m not sure how McCain did tonight—he either did very well or very poorly. He was energized, enthusiastic—but maybe a bit too eager to attack Obama. He has to stand on his own merits. It’s not enough to simply attack Obama. Voters know, or think they know, Obama’s positions. They want to know what McCain thinks first.
Not that McCain did a poor job of articulating his plans. They were, of course, hopelessly unrealistic—neither candidate will balance the budget, nor will either of them free us from dependence on foreign oil—but his positions sounded (sounded—not necessarily were) good, and he sounded strong and confident. He seemed to be enjoying himself.
And Obama didn’t. His answers were perfunctory and boring, though being boring is possibly the best strategy for the frontrunner. One odd tic—during McCain’s answers, Obama couldn’t stop smirking. Or maybe he was smiling derisively. I think Obama was shooting for the second choice—but I’m not sure he succeeded. An occasional smile is good—but a constant sneer isn’t.
John McCain asked Obama to repudiate a statement made my Representative John Lewis comparing him to George Wallace. Obama wouldn’t. That’s staggering—Obama obviously doesn’t wish to offend Lewis, but still, accusations of racism are the most serious possible in our political climate. A simple denunciation would have made Obama sound bipartisan and reasonable, and would have undercut McCain’s point. Further, and it’s sad I have to say this, but it’s doubtful that response calmed the fears of voters nervous about a black candidate. Not defending McCain in this case was wrong, I can’t imagine that Obama made any friends by his position here.
If McCain wins, “Joe the Plumber” will become a legendary debate figure, on par with the long-haired guy from Clinton’s “I-feel-your-pain” debate. And “Joe the Plumber” is a nice change from saying “the American people,” even though both terms are about as meaningless.
I thought CBS’s Bob Schieffer did a good job—the debate format was good, and his questions seemed topical. Although how come all the debate moderators have practically been mummified? Isn’t there any new broadcast talent that could moderate a debate?
The polls don’t look good for McCain right now, but a few points to consider. In 1980, Jimmy Carter was running close, and sometimes ahead of, Reagan, but Reagan did okay in that election. And many voters (around 45%) still think Obama lacks the experience necessary for the presidency. Sure, they still might vote for him—but then, maybe they won’t.
A final point. Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney. It hasn’t been a very good election for frontrunners.
If the election were held today, Obama would probably win. But the election is far from out of reach, and McCain brought it a little closer with his performance tonight. McCain might lose—but I doubt he’ll be blown out.