Analysis: The first Presidential debate
Posted by sanityinjection on September 27, 2008
I don’t think there is any question about the winner of last night’s first Presidential debate: Barack Obama. Not because he was so much better than McCain, but simply because he held his own in an area (foreign policy) that was supposed to be McCain’s strong suit.
Obama came across as confident, reasonable, and dare I say, Presidential. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about. He was obviously very well prepared. By contrast, McCain came across like your cranky grandpa. He seemed to jump from one thought to another before finishing a sentence and got bogged down in details most viewers would have a hard time following. McCain appeared stiff, which he can’t really help since he’s partially unable to move his arms, but the contrast with Obama’s body language was not a good one. It seemed like McCain was winging it, relying on his knowledge and experience to carry him through. He didn’t seem prepared rhetorically, and he tripped over his own tongue a number of times.
Neither candidate had a memorable line or made any serious mistakes. So I don’t think this debate represents a slam dunk, but with Obama regaining some momentum in the polls, McCain needed a boost, and he didn’t get one from this performance. Obama’s performance helped to rebut the charge that he is inexperienced and unready – he did not come across that way. McCain needed to hammer home those charges, but every time he started to he got sidetracked by policy details.
The next debate will be between the VP candidates, but I don’t expect it will have a major impact on the race despite the high level of interest in how Sarah Palin will perform, unless she really wallops Biden, which is unlikely. After that, the second Presidential debate will probably have the lowest viewership. So between now and the final Presidential debate, McCain is going to have to find some other source of momentum to stay in this race.