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.


Quick Debate Observations

1) McCain won the first half.  Obama came back late – almost a draw

2) The Intrade markets shows strong Obama movement

3) Schiffer let Obama get the last word only once or twice

4) McCain looked angry

5) Obama was too cool tonight.

McCain’s Non-Handshake

I noticed this last night, thought I was seeing things.  I was wrong.  Obama graciously tried to shake McCain’s hand after the debate.  Rather than do that, he backed away and pointed to his wife to shake Obama’s hand.

How would McCain react to world leaders who he had to meet and but didn’t like?  Sure, this is slightly on the petty – but what the heck, the whole campaign has gone petty.

Presidential Debate – Take 2 (Observations)

I’ve been at a loss how to blog about the debate tonight.  Why?  Well, the purpose of The Liberal Crab is to provide some insight and guidance into political issues that may not be so obvious and is supported by demonstrated facts.  The key is ‘insightful’ and ‘no so obvious’.  First, I think the pundits got it right tonight.  Second, they got it right because it was extremely obvious who won, what was the strategy of each candidate, and how effective they were at delivering their message.  So, rather than put the whole debate into a single context, these are some of my observations:


  • “That One” will live on through the campaign.  In the constantly cycling news business, it’s difficult to really fully understand what that will mean (i.e. impact).  But, there is already a racial tinge to this race and a comment like that can be exploited by Obama supporters.  Coupled with the very dangerous Palin rhetoric, it may be very negative for McCain.  However, I do not believe it was said in a racial manner, rather it was a bit of McCain’s famous anger boiling over.  Some in the media have claimed it was just McCain being jocular, but you certainly can see his tone had changed during that response.  It’s clear he has disdain for Obama and he’s done a good job pinning that back for the most part, however at times it will spill out – such as not shaking hands or looking at Obama.
  • I never thought I’d ever say this in my whole life – but I agree with Pat Buchanan (gulp, am I going to an evil place for saying that?).  It was with regard to an observation I made during the debate.  The McCain campaign has gone after Obama hard about Ayers and these other ‘radical’ people/groups.  On stage, Obama seems so above it.  I was looking at Obama respond question and it hit me, I am thinking “Really?  Ayers? Wright? ACORN?”  His persona doesn’t match the McCain rhetoric.  Ties or no ties, Obama looks presidential and an independent rational thinker – not someone with close ties to these radical people.  That’s a huge benefit to Obama as he faces another week of this mudslinging before the next debate.
  • I think McCain did about the same job he did in the first debate, but I thought Obama did much better.  His answers were even more directed at the middle class and he showed more confidence on foreign policy (although I do believe McCain was stronger on foreign policy).  Obama was extremely prepared to respond to McCain’s attacks.  Quite frankly, I was surprised that McCain didn’t have better return fire.  I actually told my wife before the debate I thought McCain would win the because he’d have a good counter punch to Obama’s responses. 
  • It is becoming very evident to me that, in a lot of ways, Obama is two moves ahead of McCain at every turn and he sort of leads McCain down the path (the expression I keep hearing is rope-a-dope).  When McCain went negative last week, Obama was ready with a website that he didn’t just create over night.  When McCain attacked him about being too much of a saber rattler, Obama was ready.  He was premptive on some of McCain’s attacks which took the teeth out of McCain going on the offensive.  This man is a brilliant campaigner and his staff is doing a tremendous job.
  • He is starting to become Clintonian.  His responses are chosen correctly for the moment.  He’s got Clinton’s ability to talk and think at the same time.  That’s much harder than it seems.  Most of the time, the responses have been preprogrammed into the candidates.  But, like Clinton, I think Obama’s responses are directed by the environment, the way the question was phrased and makes whatever additonal points he wants to tie in.  He seems to have the ability to work a room like Clinton.  He stayed a good 1/2 hour after the debate to continue talking.  Paul Begala, one of Clinton’s campaign managers even pointed out that Clinton would have stayed in the debate hall until he convinced his toughest critics to vote for him.
  • My early warning signs were telling me some of the negative campaigning was just starting to work slightly.  I think this performance tonight did two things.  First, it continued Obama’s upward trajectory that appeared to be plateuing and probably will lessen the impact of the ‘radical’ arguments for McCain, at least for a few days.  At this point, that’s all Obama needs – to bleed time off the clock.
  • Obama was relaxed (and credit my wife for the observation – I don’t think he picked up his pen once the whole night).  McCain was pacing, his warmer persona seemed forced, and his jokes really fell flat.  It appeared that Obama was really the better one in this format.
  • I thought Brokaw did an ok job.  I thought the questions were very superficial and very similar to what we have heard before.
  • McCain’s new mortgage plan seemed to be a bribe for foreclosure voter’s votes.  
Overall, it was a positive night for Obama.  I’d be concerned in the third debate.  McCain needs to bring everything to the table.  Expect him to throw out more policies.  At this point, he has nothing to lose.  He will say whatever he needs to build support.   Pundits claim that the first two debates favored McCain and the next will favor Obama.  Don’t believe it for a minute.  Both will be prepared and will be who executes better.

McCain wins the Debate

If you haven’t heard – McCain is going to debate. He, apparently, has already won according to

This is an ad already (oops) running in the Wall Street Journal.

McCain’s Ploy – Potential Boon for Obama?

 I just got done reading the blog over at Nate Silver’s site: Fivethirtyeight and he’s got an opinion piece up about the debates.  Nate’s poll analysis and attention to detail is tremendous, but haven’t really given much credence to his political commentary.  However, his debate article had a lot of good points.  That got me to thinking about the events over the last couple of days.

The big question is will McCain show up for the debate tomorrow and how will these events from the last several days affect the polls.  I think as things stand now, there is very little losing proposition for Obama.

If the debate is cancelled – With polls showing overwelming support to continue the debates and expected viewership over 34M or more, Obama can say this is all McCain’s fault.  He can thank George Bush for drawing him into Washington (so he didn’t look like he’s following McCain) and then can blame Bush and McCain for having politics enter the discussion and compromising a deal (a ‘I told you so’)

If the debate goes on without McCain – Obama will have the biggest audience of his life for one hour and in a format he does very well – 1-on-1 with Jim Lehrer.  They might do a town hall, and while Obama may not be the best in a debate format, I think with no time limits he can be a little Clinton-like and own the room.

If the debate goes on with McCain and no bailout deal – First, McCain blinked and his reputation is damaged for not staying true to his word.  His credibility takes a large hit.  Second, he’ll look like General Sherman destroying DC and not getting anything done.

If the debate goes on with McCain and there is a deal – This might be a slight win, lose, or draw for Obama.  Whether McCain gets credit for the bailout is a different issue.  But, if he does get credit – much of that will be lost and by being overshadowed by his debate performance – good or bad.  And if there is a deal, it probably won’t be first thing in the morning meaning he will spend nearly no time preparing for the debate.

The worst scenario, and you can be sure the Republicans will be pushing it – is if they get to an agreement and the vote occurs late in the afternoon. Heck, even a scheduled mid-day vote can end up being stalled for many reasons.  Then you may end up with Obama having to fly to DC to vote and missing the debate.  However, there are still ways out for Obama.  The first would be, since the Democrats control the House, they can hold up the contentious House vote until very late Friday or Saturday morning.  They can claim that they felt it was important for the country to have the debate and several hours and a closed market wasn’t going to make a difference (the GOP still could play games and decide to take the deal off the table if the Dems do that – or be accused of politicing).  Obama could go back and vote and challenge McCain to have a debate in DC with the country expecting one – it would put McCain on the spot especially with his rhetoric of having a Town Hall Meeting anywhere and at anytime.  Rest assured, there will be quid pro quo for any of these events happening, but Obama should feel a little comfortable.

The strategists will be working well into the night, morning, and mid-day to figure out all the permutations for the debate tomorrow.  It will be very interesting who comes up with biggest surprise to control the agenda tomorrow.  I think Obama is on solid ground, but as Palin, the suspended campaign, and today’s torpedoed deal show us – nothing is normal and McCain is capable of unimaginable surprises.