My Thoughts on the Debate

I have no great insight on who the public thinks won or lost the debate.  Already the polls are pouring in and they are going to be the most important part of deciding who won the debate.  The early returns are that Obama won.    Things have been known to change when the spinsters start to grab the headlines, so that may still change.

Not shockingly, I thought Obama won.  Check that, I thought Obama did well and what he needed to do.  I do not believe either candidate hit a homerun.  I am from the school of thought that you typically don’t win a debate, you lose one.

Having said that, both candidates had goals coming in.  Obama had to prove he was competent enough to handle foreign policy.  McCain had to prove he could handle the economy and demonstrate he is a leader.

I believe these were the goals – not from what the commentators wanted to see, but what those who still had to decide wanted to see.

Obama never came off shakey on his answers.  Only on the meeting with foreign leaders of rogue nations did he even seem the slightest uncomfortable.  However, McCain’s plan to pound him on the surge did not work.  Overall, I think Obama hit his target.  There was no issue he didn’t have a clear response and was able to counter McCain.   McCain had to demonstrate he felt the pain of the middle class American and was a leader.  I don’t think he did particularly well on either point.

Where McCain did do well is being able to articulate clear foreign policy positions, demonstrate his experience and knowledge of areas of the World and World leaders.  The problem is that unless he could make Obama seem incompetent, it wasn’t going to be enough to change the direction of the election, particularly with the economy still being the front and center issue.

My two favorite ‘gotchya’ moments were both Obama’s.  The first was when McCain produced a bracelet from a veteran and Obama did the same.  The second was when Obama went after McCain directly on Iraq.

Just also remember, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses – per sey.  92% of this country has made up their mind.  There might be another 5-10% who are ‘soft’ on their support and will change.  The soft 5-10% are not probably going to change their mind on this debate.  There we no game changers.  So, that only leaves the 8% undecided.  Of those, maybe 1/2 will make their decision tonight.  So, to end game this based on this debate, I think that is going to be very hard.  Certainly, that will give who ever won a slight boost in the polls, but I think that almost would be mitigated as debate bounce by the time the next debate occurs.  The moral of the story is the dynamics of this race hasn’t changed.  That’s fine for Obama, but not fine for McCain.

We’ll know the real impact in a couple of days.

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McCain’s Goofy Crazy Idea

As the news continues to break and things keep changing, it’s tough to have a rationale thought process on how this will all play out.  The one thing we are sure about is that this is a political move.  While Republicans and supporters may say otherwise, it’s clear that there is no other reason for doing this right now.

There hasn’t been an impasse and the Congress continues to work in a bi-partisan way.  While the Poulson deal may fall through, everyone seems to think there will still be a resolution this week or early next week.  Can this really be about the economy.  Ok.  But why now? Why not three days ago or two days from now when the deal was expected to be complete? Why midday on Wednesday?

The general consensous is there are a lot of reasons:

1) McCain’s poll numbers have been taking a beating, but some of the worst came out today.

2) He thinks the Sarah Palin Hail Mary worked and trying to do it again

3) Trying to cancel the VP debate.  McCain has now suggested rescheduling the VP debate and moving this debate into their slot.  Of course, the VP debate would never occur because both parties would have to agree to terms

4) Politically – he wants to demonstrate he is a leader.  Obama has been setting the agenda and this would allow McCain to gain control again

5) Obama reached out with an olive branch today to work together with McCain and McCain either was afraid of the prospect or thought he could get out in front of Obama

6) He is going senial

How will this play out? No one knows.  My gut reaction when I heard the news was he had backed Obama in a bad corner.  Continue with the debate and he looks too political.  Cancel and he looks weak and follow’s McCain.  Either way McCain holds the cards.  However, a few things have occured to really make me think – who knows.  First, Obama’s response was brilliant – that Leaders should multi-task and he didn’t want to bring politics into the negotiations in Washington.  Second, Democrats know what’s up.  Republicans know what’s up but are spinning it as McCain is a leader.  But those two groups already cast their lot.  So it comes down to independents.  This is where I am starting to think it might be a mis-calculation for McCain.  Do the independents believe it’s political or about leadership.  I think, if you are an independent in race with two candidates so different on issues – then you are probably smart to see this as a political move.  You also probably want to see how these gentlemen lead.  If the average independent is open and relatively smart, then this will backfire on McCain.

Between Obama’s responses and independents’ view of this, is really wide open how this will go down.  Initially, it appears that the general feeling is it is a move of desperations.  Even some Republican strategists either think it is a bad move or recognize it for the gambit it is.

The latest news about rescheduling debates and moving the VP debate is more fodder for Obama to show that this really is a political decision.    Seriously, the Presidential debate could have been moved to Tuesday and still had the VP debate on Thursday.

McCain is desperate, Obama needs to be careful and think (as he always does) before acting.

Is Sarah Palin Going to be Ready for the Debate?

Three weeks ago, when I had relatively the same opinion of Sarah Palin as I do now, I thought she’d do well in her debate with Joe Biden.  The rationale was that with so much time, that she would be prepared enough to slide by.  As we know, if you are going against a good debater – just getting by usually means you win the debate.  Ask George Bush about that in 2000 and 2004.  Both years Kerry and Gore appeared to win the debates, but Bush was considered the winner.  The theory goes, the lower your expectations and the higher from the other candidate – the less the underdog has to do to win.  That coupled with putting Biden in a difficult position to not seem sexist or elitist, seemed to give credence to this view.

However, recent events have made me reconsider this position.  First, the lack of access to Palin to the media shows that her handlers are not comfortable with her not talking from a script.  The Bush Doctrine gaffe was a great example of what they are concerned about.  However, Today’s events at the UN provide more evidence that they are still not comfortable.  For those who missed it, after initially not allowing access by the press pool to her meetings today – starting with Afghan President Hamid Karzi – her team finally relented to the media – for 29 seconds.  That’s right 29 seconds – sufficient to hear her ask about Karzi’s child, but nothing else.  These meetings have/will be very controlled.  She has a team of advisers in the room with her and the conversation would be at a high level.  Even then, her team was not comfortable with the press listening to their conversation.  There are a lot of potential reasons – 1) her advisers would do most of the talking 2) it would be an extremely superficial conversation 3) they are not sure what she is going to say. 

With a week to go before the debate, they are continuing to keep tight controls on her.  That doesn’t appear to be a ringing endorsement of her ability to answer random questions.  Since her interview with Charlie Gibson, which most liberals thought was going to be a softball interview, she hasn’t put herself in a position to answer the tough questions again.  She did an interview with Sean Hannity where he was also lobbing softballs to her.  In her Town Hall meeting, she answered questions from a pro-Republican audience and the questions were along the lines of, “What do you say to people who say you can’t be a mother and the Vice-President?” Not exactly Bob Woodward.  When she was willing to play ‘stump the candidate’, McCain thought better of it and cut her off.  Additionally, she has not had a press conference since being named to the ticket.

I used to believe that, given time, she’d ‘bone up’ and be ready for the debate and general questions.  But, I am starting to really wonder if she is the type of person who just doesn’t get it.  The more you hear about her record and what she’s done in Alaska, the more you realize she may be more in the mold of George W. Bush – relenting constantly to a team of advisers.  

Now, I’ve been alive long enough to realize anything can happen – and often does.  It could be that the McCain campaign is comfortable and either still doesn’t want to take a risk prior to the debate or playing coy and she will come out swinging hard.  It may also be that as she hunkers down over the next week, she will come out with sufficient knowledge to hold her own and consider it a win.  Those are very plausible scenarios.  However, she just doesn’t seem to demonstrate much depth at all.

 If she was strong on the economy or foreign policy – a la Obama or McCain, respectively – she could probably take a crash course and be ready.  But let me ask a question to most of you out there.  Do you think, in the midst of long campaign days and nights, you personally could learn enough about foreign policy (including details about Korea, China, Georgia, Russia, Latin America, Pakistan/India, Indonesia, the Middle East, Canada and any obscure area that may have problems), domestic policy (details of the bailout, environment, unemployment, immigration, inflation, crime, tax issues, energy, farm issues, states rights, consitutional issues, abortion, stem cells, etc.), and campaign related details?  These are top level issues.  The questions will be much more detailed and relationships between issues will need to be understood.  I submit that she has about the same level of knowledge as most of America when it comes to these issues.  Heck, as one who has Political Science degree and stays relatively current with the news – I’d have trouble feeling comfortable after a month of cramming that I could answer these questions.

She cannot continue to answer questions by either saying it’s all about reform or energy independence, it simply isn’t that easy.