Alas, as is common in American politics, it was a draw. John McCain looked Presidential, perhaps even more so than Bush has looked this week. He listened, he corrected, he was polite, and he gave compelling reasons for us to elect him. But Barack Obama made the cut too, he has the lead in the polls and will probably maintain that 2-3% lead going into the first of next week.
Patrick Ruffini, accomplished blogger from the Next Right, posted his thoughts this morning on the debate, which I found solid and worth re-posting here:
Most of my instant reaction was on Twitter, but here are some thoughts in no particular order:
- McCain did very well in keeping the debate on his own ground. Notice how long we were discussing the surge and earmarks. This is a strategy he perfected in the primaries, and it's what enabled him to win the nomination -- because the Republican base disagreed with him on everything else. He is a very insistent debater, and controlled the flow and subject matter.
- McCain schooled Obama on the later non-Iraq foreign policy questions, particularly on Georgia. To the extent this wasn't covered by the snap polling since it occurred later in the debate, this should be to McCain's benefit in polling the next 24-48 hours.
- The pundit class seems to agree this one was a draw. There will be no rush to declare one man the winner like there was after the first 2004 debate. Kerry won the snap polls the night of the debate, but was winning 3-to-1 a few days later when asked who won. This made a 3-4 point difference in the polls.
- Obama is walking a fine line between professorial/detached and Zen-like/Presidential. You never know when he is going to slip into either mode. Debates are weird that way. They can turn liabilities into strengths and vice versa.
- Obama pronounces it Pah-kii-stan.
- Obama seems to have a major burr under his blanket when it comes to free markets and regulation. In both this debate and his acceptance speech, he seemed to go to great lengths to make a philosophical case for activist government. This inspires me to work even harder against him.
- McCain looked like a leader in calling for a freeze in government spending. Obama's line about using a scalpel not a hatchet reeked of rearranging the deck chairs, and thinking you can have your cake and eat it too in the middle of a major financial emergency. One of McCain's major calling cards is service and sacrifice. In this way, Obama would be like Bush who didn't ask us to sacrifice after 9/11.
- Was Henry Kissinger the gaffe of the evening?