A debate is a contest where we make judgments - most at the emotional, trust level - most at the communication style level. In tonight's first Presidential debate - there was not a lot to choose from.
- McCain looked tight and his voice was a bit shaky at the start. Obama came out strong, (except for starting by looking at the camera and appearing to 'pitch' to the audience,) and he had several answers with focused points.
- Later McCain got stronger, firm voice and experienced voice, and Obama began backing and filling a bit.
Debates usually swing about 4% for one or another. I think this one was a toss up. And with that McCain probably gets the edge because his campaign has been sliding rapidly lately, and after tonight he recovered by holding up his foreign affairs experience.There are two more Presidential debates to come - I expect more differences to show in the other formats.
And stay tuned for next week - the Biden/Palin debate on October 2 may be decisive. The Ross Perot/Admiral James Stockdale ticket of 1992 dropped 19% after the unfortunate VP debate debacle of Admiral Stockdale.
Some other thoughts:
- It just wasn't a vital, engaging debate. The debate a few weeks ago at Saddleback was more revealing. I viewed this with a young neutral mother of seven, and she had a telling comment about half way through - "This is just political blah, blah, blah."
- Amazingly neither talked much, nor with any focus and clarity, on the overwhelming economic crisis. (OK, I know the debate was on foreign policy, but politicians can easily bridge if they are skilled.)
- And surprisingly, Jim Lehrer, the moderator had to ask the candidates to answer to each other, to confront each other, and both shied away from it with a couple of exceptions. Obama confronted McCain a few times, and unfortunately for McCain he didn't look at Obama at all - either listening or confronting. He should have.
- McCain's best line, "I look in Putin's eyes and see three letters - KGB."
- Obama's best line, "You want to use a hatchet when you need a scalpel."