The Debate and Where do we go From Here

The debate was of two parts, this evening.  In the first half, McCain won by a mile.  Obama was flat and didn’t have great responses.  But the second half was a big comeback for Obama and McCain actually looked a little flat.  Overall, McCain did better than he had previously, but it was not the ‘game changer’ a lot of people thought it needed to be.  Personally, I think McCain’s biggest problem tonight was being too obvious.  His attacks were nearly identical to the script he has been peddling out on the campaign trail.  That allowed Obama to have some very good scripted responses.  Obviously the Ayers and Acorn connections were predicted.  But, it was the ‘raising taxes on anyone making 42K and up’ or “the fine on health care” that really gave Obama the platform.  And that was McCain’s problem.  For as much as he needed to be on the attack, he needed to do it in a way that was more of a surprise.  Attacking him in ways that have already been brought up in two or three previous debates was not going to affect the calm and collected Obama.  I think that Obama may have been off his game in the beginning because he didn’t know what to expect from McCain and didn’t want to be caught off guard.  When it became obvious that McCain was still McCain, Obama took the lead in the debate.

McCain did help himself a little bit tonight.  He appeared more authoritative on the economy.  But, even then, he preferred attacks on Obama over talking about his plans.  Obama stayed on message all night.  That afforded him another platform to advance his ideas with very little competition of ideas from John McCain.

Additionally, I thought McCain’s mannerisms betrayed him tonight.  I think you will be hearing a lot about how this compared to Al Gore in 2000 and George Bush in 2004.  When they thought they were off camera, they showed too much emotion.  McCain looked angry at times and even had a sigh thrown in there.  At one point when McCain tried to call Obama out on fines for small businesses that don’t provide health care, McCain had a quizzical response and a stunned look on Obama’s response.  Even in his delivery, his frustration showed so badly that he had trouble articulating some of his thoughts.

The election is not over, but it is over.  For McCain to come back, there is going to have be a truly structural change in the election that goes beyond McCain affecting the election.  For McCain to come back, he has to shift the momentum in probably at least 7-8 states.  That’s about 2 days per state – that’s not enough time to change that many states.  It’s not like he can spend 15 of the next 19 days in Ohio and win.  Additionally, Obama will keep pushing hard.  There are new ‘red’ states every day that are trending towards Obama.  Louisiana, for example, is one of those states.  McCain is also  at a money disadvantage.  

If Obama continues to remain effective in his campaigning and there are no surprises, he will win.  Beyond a surprise, I think the only issues that might register would be a Dem Congress/Executive Branch or ‘buyer’s remorse’ argument from McCain.   Those really will be the only things to slow him down, at this point – and it’s very possible that it could happen.  Obama needs to keep pushing, he needs to get a mandate by having the largest margin of victory possible.  Getting a majority, rather than a plurality of votes is critical.  But an Electoral College landslide is most important.

Finally, I think the results of all of these debates is telling.  Obama and Biden won all of them by about the same margin.  To me, that goes to more than being an effective debater.  That firm advantage tells me that the electorate is basically cemented in their positions.  There are undecideds, but they are breaking towards Obama also.

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