In the first debate I thought McCain had slightly the better of it. Basically a draw, but McCain seemed a bit more forceful and confident. Then the polling over the next few days showed that most people thought Obama was the clear winner. Yay!
I hope, though, that I am not similarly out of touch with my country on this one. I thought McCain made an absolute fool of himself in this debate. Carnage. The calculus exams I was grading while watching were less gruesome than McCain’s performance.
Obama was his usual super-composed self, delivering one solid answer after another to the questions being asked. His shots at McCain emerged naturally in the course of his answers, and many of them were just devastating. McCain sings about bombing Iran to old Beach Boys tunes, and Obama is the one who lacks the sobriety to handle foreign policy? Please.
McCain, meanwhile, seemed on the verge of a complete breakdown. He delivered his lines in the juvenile, taunting style more familiar from the elementary school playground. Then there was the weirdness. Hair transplants? Referring to Obama as “that one?” Prowling around the stage while Obama was speaking? Bluntly telling Tom Brokaw he would not be the treasury secretary in a McCain administration? Huh? The man’s at the end of his tether.
Andrew Sullivan has it exactly right:
This was, I think, a mauling: a devastating and possibly electorally fatal debate for McCain. Even on Russia, he sounded a little out of it. I’ve watched a lot of debates and participated in many. I love debate and was trained as a boy in the British system to be a debater. I debated dozens of times at Oxofrd. All I can say is that, simply on terms of substance, clarity, empathy, style and authority, this has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out.It has been about as big a wipe-out as I can remember in a presidential debate. It reminds me of the 1992 Clinton-Perot-Bush debate. I don’t really see how the McCain campaign survives this.
Jonathan Chait came to the same conclusion:
After the first debate, I didn’t have a strong sense of who won. This time I do: Obama crushed McCain.
I’ll predict that two things broke through. First, Obama constantly invoked the lived experience of Americans and explained how his proposals would relate to them. McCain hardly ever did this–even when he got specific, like on pork barrel spending, he did not relate it to peoples’ lives. Second, McCain was just nasty–calling Obama “that one,” and delivering zingers like “Did we hear the size of the fine” with a smile so forced it looked like it would break his face.
I have MSNBC on in the background as I am writing this, and they are reporting that the instapolling show that Obama won the debate by a large margin. Double yay!