Scoring the First Obama/McCain Debate

This is a pretty traditional debate performance for Obama. Strong on substance. Few mistakes. Little in the way of killer instinct or decapitating lines. McCain, by contrast, is offering an uncommonly strong performance powered, as far as I can tell, by his raging contempt for Obama. -- Ezra Klein

I thought both candidates were strong in last night's presidential debate at Ole Miss, but I'd give the edge to Barack Obama because he had more to prove and John McCain showed so much contempt for his opponent, a trait that's as attractive on him as it was on Al Gore in 2000. McCain avoided eye contact with Obama the entire debate and didn't express a single moment of good regard towards him, even when touting the importance of bipartisanship in solving the Wall Street banking crisis.

Seven times last night, McCain dismissed Obama with the claim that he didn't understand something, capping it off with his statement that "I honestly don't believe that Senator Obama has the knowledge or experience" to be president.

It's hard for me to judge, given my high opinion of Obama, but I don't think McCain helped himself with the sneering dismissal of his opponent, particularly in light of Obama's historic achievement as the first African-American nominee of a major party. If Joe Biden demonstrates even one-tenth as much disregard for Sarah Palin in Thursday's vice presidential showdown, she could answer every question with a fumbling "I'll get back to ya," point out that she can see Russia from her house, and still win the night.

Because this was the foreign policy debate, Obama needed to show a command of international issues worthy of a president and demonstrate the strength to lead the military, and I think he accomplished both. His assertion that the war in Iraq has distracted the country from more important priorities elsewhere, particularly in Afghanistan, is persuasive. Although it doesn't get a lot of attention, the failure of President Bush to keep his promise to capture or kill Osama bin Laden demonstrates our slipshod pursuit of the "war on terror" and undercuts Republicans on national security.

Obama was the only one on the stage who seemed to care that Bin Laden has evaded capture for seven years and Al Qaeda is resurgent in Afghanistan and the lawless border region of Pakistan. In one of his most effective attacks, Obama took McCain to the woodshed over this:

... it is not true you have consistently been concerned about what happened in Afghanistan. At one point, while you were focused on Iraq, you said well, we can "muddle through" Afghanistan. You don't muddle through the central front on terror and you don't muddle through going after bin Laden. You don't muddle through stamping out the Taliban.

I think that is something we have to take seriously. And when I'm president, I will.

Obama's right on the facts here. McCain said in 2003 that we could "muddle through in Afghanistan" as part of his justification for the Iraq War.

According to the transcript, Bin Laden was mentioned seven times during the debate, and six of them were by Obama. The only mention by McCain was in agreement with the terrorist leader! "Osama bin Laden and General Petraeus have one thing in common that I know of, they both said that Iraq is the central battleground," said McCain, justifying a U.S. military presence in Iraq he shows no desire to end.

McCain was better in debate than he's been in his drain-circling campaign, where his flair for drama queen antics nearly made him the first no-show at a presidential debate, but I don't think he achieved what he needed to change the dynamics of a race he's currently losing. As conventional wisdom settles around the first debate, I expect it will be viewed like Kennedy/Nixon in 1960 and Reagan/Carter in 1980, a debate in which the unproven challenger proved himself worthy of the office he seeks.


I couldn't agree more. I think one of the most poignant moments was when McCain was finishing a story he's told hundreds of times (about the wrist band given by a mother of one of the Fallen), and uses that story to point out that we can't leave Iraq until "victory" is achieved otherwise her son will have died in vain.

Obama responds perfectly, in my view:

"No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they're carrying out the missions of their commander in chief. And we honor all the service that they've provided. Our troops have performed brilliantly. The question is for the next president, are we making good judgments about how to keep America safe precisely because sending our military into battle is such an enormous step."

He completely unravels McCain's posture on Iraq in one fell swoop.

You know McCain won the debate... everyone knows it. Look at the polls... look at the poll on the drudge report - 2 to 1 with McCain leading. Get used to it. This is what November is going to look like.

Ya, right. McCain won the debate like Bush won the election.

Hilarious! "McSame wins the polls on Judge Report". Yeah, rest on that success and see where it gets you in November. Perhaps if McSame had shared about 14 more tired "I was there..." anecdotes....
I was going to sit this one out because Dr. Ron Paul was the only candidate that I wanted in the WH, but now I've got to get up and support Mr. Obama.

I don't regard online polls as legitimate measurements of public support. Of course McCain won the Drudge Report's online poll -- the site skews heavily Republican.

So far, every real poll I've seen of last night had Obama winning more independents than McCain.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz convened a focus group on Fox News last night, and as you can see from the video, the undecideds chose Obama as the winner:

....I mean Drudge Report. I also read Drudge Retort. It's the other book-end with the silent majority in the middle.

McCain is fortunate. After his flaky drama queen act this week, the first debate involved discussion areas that are his strong suit. he didn't have to be that well prepared for these topics in order to do well.

And indeed he performed better than I thought he was going to after the week he had. He hasn't looked as strong as he did last night on the campaign trail in a while.

All Obama had to do was hold his own in this realm of discussion. And he more than did that. When they go to topics of domestic policy and finance, McCain had better be very well prepared or else.

I wish Obama had the ability to slow his brain down, not be so consumed with marshaling facts and precise speaking points and correcting the record, and speak in a more deliberate and convincing tone to the core of the issues in a manner that the "average voter" can readily relate to. Last night, his answers did not really flow - they were extruded. He did not provide a critically vital added level of comfort to those voters who are having a hard time becoming comfortable with him.

Reagan was a master at appearing earnest and plainspoken (despite his highly questionable command of the facts and issues). Clinton was a master at being affable and personable - along with delivering all the depth of detail and understanding anyone could ask for. If Obama displayed just a smidgen of hometown warmth and charm every so often, it would be a huge help.

Just boil it down and tell it like it is in simple terms, Sen. Obama. Remind the voters how vehemently the Pentagon opposed the Iraq mission. Remind the voters that the Iraq campaign was created and pushed through by a small handful of people, NONE of whom had either a distinguished service record or any service record at all.

You don't need to bring facts and figures all the time. You don't need to quantify how many people were horribly affected by Katrina. You just need to say that the Bush administration let this country down. Just put it in plain human terms once in a while and let that kind of statement stand on its own merits.

And Senator Obama- your on-camera make-up last night was a disaster. You need and deserve a better result than that. Whoever prepped you for the debate - they should not get a second chance. bring in someone else ASAP.

Your crew needs to get Biden prepped well for his show, too. The recent still shots of him that have been put up on the web have been awful.

Purcell is citing an unscientific poll. The Undecided voters weighed heavily to Obama. Although I thought the debate was fairly even with McCain a little more confident, the perception of the people who matter was very good for Obama.

I think McCains reaction was appropriate.

I wish McCain was asked "If you knew then what you know now, would you still vote to go to war with Iraq?"

So you thought John Mccain showed contempt for Hussein?

So what.

Why would McCain show anything other then snearing contempt for the wet behind the ears, empty suit? Is he supposed to show deference to the failed community organizer?

Hussein is the most corrupt and least qualified person who has ever ran for president, once again the democratic party has choosen the losing ticket, when Hillary/Richardson would have won.

Yea, John Mcain showed snearing contempt for Hussein, anyone with a brain in their head would.

Rex is an idiot. If Obama had been corrupt at all, surely the republican machine would have used it against him. However, there is plenty of evidence that McCain IS corrupt and Obama does not use it against him (which he should) because he says he want's to stick to the issues. Read a book clown, and stop listening to talk radio.

Score Obama 1 Mcsame 0

Mcsame is behind in the polls and needed a clear knock out last night in a debate all the pundits said was his strong suit. He failed on all counts . Obama on the other showed very clearly he could stand toe to toe with mcsame on Foreign policy and mcsame looked clueless on the economic discussion. mcsame kept trying make a big deal out of earmarks thing as if anyone but him gives a shit about this minuscule portion of the over all federal budget. Obama contrasted the earmark argument with mcsame's tax give away to the rich at 300 billion and made mcsame look foolish. mcsame thinks he can get away with this shit to an audience not composed of his brain following but it didn't work. All the shows afterwards and today showed the Inds. swinging too Obama. Another nasty condescending and frankly disrespectful performance by mcsame like last night IMHO will finish him off.

Well said, Rogers.

Anyone here ever heard the term 'Hussein Obama, Corruption Fighter?'

No you haven't because he is ears deep in corruption, from his spirtual leader, the randy Rev. Racist, to his ghost writer and good buddy, terrorist William Ayers, to his real estate agent, Tony convicted felon Tony Rezko.

Hussein has wallowed in corruption and filth since day one, from his phony rip off community organizing (What is the murder rate in that district again?) to getting ear marks for the hospital his wife works at (and lo and behold she gets a 350% raise the next year, how nice) to being FNMA second biggest money grabber, to the shell game of money laundering done at ACORN.

Hussein is just another corrupt politican who is being propped up by the hard left. If the MSM wasn't running cover for this empty suit, he would be laughed off the national stage.

Obama IS an empty suit. I do not know whether to laugh hyterically at the Democrat's choice for president or cry for the millions of delusional kool-aide drinkers who support him. McCain did not show contempt for Obama last night, he showed patience. The same kind of patience when an adult has to correct a child caught in a deception. Like an adult dealing with a particularly stubborn youngster who refuses to see the error of his ways, McCain slowly began to increase his forcefullness in making his point.

I am sorry for you Obama supporters. You look at life through all of your conspiracy theories, like a scene out of the X-files. The fact is last night you saw a giant of a man (McCain) who has given so much for his country contrasted against an infant (Obama) who has not yet lived nor given anything for his country. McCain spoke from vast experience, he answered questions thoughtfully without theater. Obama spoke like he was regurgitating facts from a textbook he had just read with little or no comprhension of what he had ingested.

Partial list of Hussein lies

If Obama is an "infant" - what was Bush?

Jinkies - I don't even wanna think about that!


He's absolutely correct, and I, too (aging myself), thought of the analogy with the first John Kennedy - Nixon debate here in Chicago. This resulted with the republican spin teams explaining Tricky Dick's showing as the result of poor make-up, and the wrong kind of makeup that caused him to appear unduly sinister and snide.

The moderator, at least once, actually turned to McCain and asked him to look at Obama, and asked him why did not do so.
McCain reminded me of Captain Queeg in the Caine Mutiny. He's an old naval officer who has psycho problems, and they manifest in a fear, envy, and self-inflicted intimidation by Obama. In short, McCain is scared of Obama; that's why he is afraid to look at him!
I was a Hillary voter, and Obama showed me in the debate that he is, to put it mildly, "Presidential".
Another facet of his showing was the concern he evidenced for the future, and referring to handling it with "judgment". He has a sense of a "bigger picture" that is in marked contrast to McCain's constant referral to nitpicking this or that.
Obama has McCain with his Captain Queen, Nixon psychological traits "wrapped around his little finger". All McCain has going for him is race prejudice, which the Rove types will "play to the hilt". It's all they have.

Spoil what? Waste what? Steal what?

Barack Obama we do not doubt your intelligence. To be an effective leader one must display honesty, compassion, & guts. Stand with Ralph Nader, Ron Paul, & Cynthia McKinney. NOT John McCain. Your choice - your move.

"The fact is last night you saw a giant of a man (McCain) who has given so much for his country

just what exactly has he given? is this the p.o.w. thing again? if being a tortured p.o.w. is qualification for being a national hero, then we manufactured a lot of heroes at abu ghraib.

look at the transcript of the first debate. every time mccain tries to frame his opponent as inexperienced or ignorant, replace the name "obama" with "palin" and see how mccain's argument sounds. mccain gave up the weapon of experience when he chose palin, which is why that line of attack - the best one, the most effective one, the one that leads to victory! - no longer works against obama. i'm sick that he didn't pick ridge or even lieberman for this reason.

he can't effectively make the case that obama is too much of a neophyte to be commander in chief when his own #2 can't go toe-to-toe with a haircut like katie couric. after the debate, biden was on all the networks... where was palin? they've had to hide her away because every time she opens her mouth, she gets caught in mccain's experience bear trap.

this is a disaster.

Tony did you say, "the Democrat's choice for president or cry for the millions of delusional kool-aide drinkers who support him?" Your comment smacks of the divisive language that this country was built upon and desperately need to let go of. I look forward to backwards idealists like you just fading into our very bad history.

A CBS poll reported 39% believed Obama was the winner and 24% thought McCain won.

An Opinion Research poll commissioned by CNN gave the debate to Obama 51% to 38%, with men splitting evenly and women going for Obama 2 to 1.

An NBC survey, which drew 291,000 responses gave the win to Obama 51% to 35%.

Democracy Corps held a 45-person focus group in Missouri. The group was heavily tilted towards the GOP, with 33% identifying as Republicans, 27% identifying as Democrats, and the rest independents. The group as a whole voted for Bush over Kerry by a 2-to-1 margin in 2004. And yet, by a 38% to 27% margin, they felt that Obama had won the first debate.

just what exactly has he given?

Decades of public service. Yes, that POW thing. He's bucked his party's line consistently, which Obama's never done once. Being part of the effort to normalize relations between the US and Vietnam, despite his experiences as a POW. Basically, a lot of stuff he didn't have to do, but thought it needed doing.

He's bucked his party's line consistently, which Obama's never done once.

Obama's in the position he is today because he opposed the Iraq War while the majority of Democrats in Congress green-lighted it. If he had backed the war, or Hillary Clinton had opposed it from the start, I don't think his campaign would've gotten off the ground.

Oh right - he's the "Maverick" who voted along with Bush upwards of 90% of the time. Way to buck the party line.

Unfortunately for McCain, the numbers don't lie.

By the way - don't know how the MSM missed this: that $3 million bear DNA study McCain likes to bash? He voted for it.

mikey named only one thing - normalizing relations with vietnam. much like sarah palin, he's having difficulty coming up with mccain accomplishments.

how about mccain-feingold? with that gem, mccain tried to limit first amendment speech rights and so the supreme court killed it a few times.

how about his failed immigration bill? it would have made america less safe, and so it never got passed.

how about the torture bill? mccain cam eout against torture... then ultimately voted for bush's bill.

mccain wasn't my candidate in the primary precisely because he wasn't a maverick, he was a traitor and a failed one at that.

Regardless of how Democrats voted, most of them spoke out against the war in Iraq. Having the most principled antiwar position due to voting consistency, while admirable, is not the same thing as going against the party line.

Kraut, anyone with decades of public service has a laundry list of failures. I wasn't listing accomplishments, I was answering a question. Your reading comprehension and counting skills are equally problematic, which is common when you're responding to the voices in your head and not the words on the page.

Losing another argument, another Republican - Mikey this time - resorts to personal attacks. (And against one of his own!)

Jeez - is that all you people have got?

Hahaha honestly. Rex, at the very least your misguidedness is hilarious. Do the world a favor and take your 8th grade education out of online editorial comment sections, and get back to putting my trash in the dumpster.

I think Barack Obama moved well in the debate 1.

he refused to handle the situation propely.but McCain acted in bizzare way in his conversation with Barack about financial crsis

surely both of them were well balanced by the judgement

wait and see until the election starts

Add a Comment

All comments are moderated before publication. These HTML tags are permitted: <p>, <b>, <i>, <a>, and <blockquote>. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA (for which the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply).