Friday, September 26, 2008

Live Blogging The Debate (Hit Refresh to Update)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Obama's biggest job was to look Presidential, and he got over that hurdle. McCain had to look capable and not reckless, and Obama let him look like those two things. The professionals are saying that this debate won't change the fundamental dynamic of the race, and I wonder if that's true. The analysts are saying that Obama did better stylistically, and that could be true, but the American people want to be led and McCain certainly looked tougher.

10:36PM - "I know how to heal the wounds of war," is really preposterous. And McCain gets away with it for batting last.

10:35PM - Obama needs to hit McCain on the "stubborn-ness" thing, since it's clearly -- CLEARLY -- McCain who's being stubborn, of these two candidates. And instead? He goes for narrative. I'd like to feel positive about this country, but first we've got to strip the bark off this reckless old man to your right, Senator Obama.

10:34PM - We've been listening to McCain say "I've been involved" for ninety minutes, and I wonder if that's going to pay off in the long run -- at the end of the night he sounds like a guy who's frustrated that everyone hasn't rolled over for his resume.

10:33PM -The "Economy in decline / can't hold military superiority" bundle is a terrific argument; will Joe Lunchbox be able to connect all of those dots?

10:32PM - Hit 'em where it hurts, Obama. It's a big world out there, and there's a lot of threats on the board -- and Obama is scoring a big, late touchdown on this question.

10:30PM - "If we lose in Iraq, it will embolden Al Queda," is a line we've been hearing for six years -- call me an eternal optimist, but I think the persuadable public is *OVER* this message.

10:29PM - Okay, one more time: these guys said they were gonna keep us safe, and they let Bin Laden slip away. And Obama is right that the country is greatly diminished on the world stage, and he's making great points. But it's really, really late.

10:27PM - Obama has a chance to hit McCain really hard (sound familiar?) and he's not doing it (sound familiar?). He does a little better with non-proliferation, but the problem is that McCain doesn't lose anything by coming out in favor of whatever Obama wants on the subject.

10:27PM - By the way, it would have been nice if McCain had bothered to answer the actual question, instead of plugging Joe Lieberman like a film clip on a late-night talk show.

10:26PM - Does anyone think the country is safer from terrorist attack than it was on the day after 9/11? I dare say that even the lowest- of low-information voters is going to buy that.

10:25PM - McCain just set the state of Nevada *ON* *FIRE*. He may end up winning this debate (I think he has), and actually losing ground on the map. He gave away Iowa with his opposition to ethanol, and he gave away Nevada with storage of nuclear waste. What's he thinking?

10:24PM - Awfully late in this debate for Obama to point out that McCain votes against energy independence. Is anyone still listening to that kind of substance?

10:24PM - Obama has a great position on Russia. And I know I'm biased, but I just love listening to him talk about the (un-necessarily narrow) corridor we've found ourselves painted down into, in dealing with them. He just gets it.

10:21PM - Is McCain really sure that the persuadable voters in the middle can juggle Ukraine, Ossetia, Georgia, and a pipeline? I'd be surprised if most of the people who haven't picked a candidate even know that those places are all close to each other on the map.

10:20PM - "I went there once" is something McCain is going to get away with (and score huge points for) because Obama didn't call him on the body armor lie, most of an hour ago.

10:19PM - McCain talking knowledgeably about a pipeline should be a good talking-point for him, but I wonder -- do we really want to pick the guy, of these two, who knows more about pipelines, to be our next President?

10:18PM - Obama hits Bush on the "looking into his soul" comment and, by association, McCain, on being reactive and belligerent about Russia. Does "both sides need to show restraint" really sound naive? It doesn't sound naive to me, but I'm biased.

10:16PM - Russia is yet another softball for Obama, given McCain/Palin's rhetoric on the subject over the past few weeks. If Obama doesn't retort McCain's "three tries to get it right" comment (still forthcoming), he'll be on the defensive again.

10:15PM - What McCain's doing now is putting a lot of chips on the Kissinger square, here, and if he's wrong about the facts Obama isn't going to let McCain off the hook about it like Kerry did in 2004.

10:13PM - Obama is winning the debate now, but I'm terrified that he didn't start winning it until the bullies in all the living rooms around the country were already high-fiving each other and drowning-out the rest of the telecast.

10:11PM - Spain is the first home run for the good-guys. And by the way, Kissinger *did* say that he would agree to unconditional talks with Iran. He did, he did, he did, he did, he did.

10:10PM - Bush being with Obama and not with McCain on reaching out to Iran is huge. Don't be afraid, Team Blue, the public is sage enough to get this--I just wish Obama could be painting McCain as more reckless, which he is.

10:09PM - Oh by the way, Mr. McCain, it's you -- this time -- who doesn't understand the country you're talking about. The Secretaries of State issue is pure gold for Obama.

10:07PM - Tough, direct diplomacy with Iran. and the "not talking to punish" answer, are terrific points-scoring moments for Obama. McCain comes back on the "without precondition" business, which, I think, is an unforced error by McCain. The American public is war-weary right now, right or wrong. Talking to people "without precondition" doesn't sound nearly as scary as it would have six years ago.

10:06PM - Good answer from Obama here right now, the idea that Iran is being strengthened by what McCain wants to do in the Middle East. Team-Blue was ready for this one.

10:03PM - Most Americans will know that McCain's Iran answer is pandering to the Jewish vote, but in the past that hasn't "hurt" with the rest of the country as much as a pandering answer usually does, in other matters. Will Obama come back strong on the League of Democracies idea, which is the most reckless, terrible idea in modern history? Will he hit back on the failure of McCain to tell the difference between Al Queda and Iran?

10:02PM - I just asked my viewing partners who's winning this debate and they called it a draw right now, which might suggest a Nixon/Kennedy dynamic. I'm not looking at the screen because I'm looking at what I'm typing, and they aren't typing so they can see the TV images. Is Obama doing better than I think he is?

10:00PM - "We took our eye off Afghanistan," is a great line for Obama because he's got the public on his side with this. He's got McCain on the "muddle through" comment, which McCain definitely said.

9:59PM - No, Barack, do not get into a narrative-war -- this isn't the right way to play this. You need to hit him for NOT answering the question with anything ELSE, besides narrative.

9:58PM - "I have a record" is a set-piece from the McCain team, but it leaves him open to a fairly obvious comeback. Will Obama take this chance to say, "That's the whole problem"?

9:57PM - "This business about bombing Iran" just made everyone in my room cringe. Is he going to say he never sang "bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb-Iran"?

9:56PM - This answer from Obama is his strongest yet, precisely because it's the thing he should have been doing for most of an hour: point out that it is McCain who is reckless, impulsive, and not trustworthy on his campaign pledges.

9:55PM - "Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan" is a terrific comeback, as long as he didn't. If he did, you can count on a commercial running about it in... oh... about ten seconds.

9:54PM - McCain is winning on Pakistan. Period. Obama looks reckless, and McCain is getting away with being the more bellicose candidate by a country mile. Right now a persuadable voter would think a new war is more likely under Obama than McCain, and that's a huge win for McCain.

9:53PM - By this time in the first debate of 1980, Reagan had already won it, "just by not being a scary choice." Anybody think Obama has met that standard?

9:50PM - The "do we need more troops in Afghanistan" question from Lehrer is a hanging slider for Obama to hit out of the park on redeployment, but only if he closes the deal and doesn't make it sound like he's for a draft. In fact, why isn't Obama hitting McCain on his town-hall comment about not being opposed to re-instituting the draft?

9:49PM - Obama brings up Bin Laden, which is good. He fights back on the "dangerous" thing, which is good, and McCain is quoting people who have damaged credibility on the ground, anyway. I think Obama is winning this. Obama is loaded for bear on Iraq, and it's a downhill field for him, anyway, because the public is sick of Iraq.

9:47PM - Obama is ready on the troop funding issue, which is good. He looks ready and he's turning the tables on McCain. Good job, but, again, too little too late. He certainly shouldn't be turning this into a "tactics vs. strategy" argument. The Afghanistan vs. Iraq thing is a(nother) obvious weakness for McCain, and Obama is bloodying his nose on this score.

9:45PM - "Doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy" is a great zinger line -- except for the small problem that most of us don't, either. The "let us win" comment is a perfect opening for Obama to hit McCain about the body armor language.

9:44PM - "You were wrong," is a good line. Obama looking a little tougher on this one.

9:42PM - McCain just said this was about the future (that's a good play for him), but then he went back to talk about the surge. McCain should stand accountable for the whole "we didn't wear body armor" comment -- and Obama instead is using his comeback to talk committee inside-baseball (and just admitted it), and even gave a nod to Biden which leaves the door open to the charge that he'll need a handler to manage foreign policy.

9:41PM - If Obama really was opposed to this war in 2002, that's great -- but it leaves him open to a big comeback: he wasn't in the United States Senate in 2002, he was in the Illinois legislature. He's doing better with the "we took our eye off the ball" stuff, and the spending in Iraq, but he hasn't really foreclosed on McCain, who will *surely* come back with an experience comment.

9:40PM - Let's see if Obama does better when the question is about something he's been prepping for.

9:39PM - McCain learned from Iraq that you can't have a failed strategy? Shouldn't he have known that already?

9:38PM - Obama has picked this moment to try to tie McCain to Bush, that's the good news -- the bad news is that he's trying to win a cut-spending-war with McCain, and that just makes the public think that McCain really is a cut-spending guy, which he isn't.

9:37PM - This "low taxes are the best recipe" business is pure Bush doctrine, and Obama is letting him get away with it.

9:36PM - Why isn't Obama hammering on this whole cutting-spending thing? You can't stimulate the economy out of a recession by cutting spending.

9:35PM - This isn't a good night for Team Blue, period. Obama sounds like the guy trying to defend a bad track-record. Personally I don't get it. But then, I didn't get it in 2000, either.

9:33PM - McCain doesn't sound like someone who's too worried about holding Nevada, right now. All the waste from those nuclear plants goes to Yucca Mountain and there's not a person in the whole Silver State who wants any more of it in his back yard.

9:32PM - Obama gets his first good line of the debate -- "using a hatchet where you should use a scalpel," and finally gets to Iraq, but a reasonable person has to ask if it's too little too late.

9:30PM - Obama on pure defense right now. No reason for it. McCain is the one with the bad track-record on all of these subjects and he's getting away with murder. Every time Obama gets a chance to push back, he changes the subject instead. I'd say he's losing fair-and-square, at the moment. Something like 4-1. This "google for government" thing is a horrendous misstep, it makes him sound like a camp counselor.

9:29PM - Unforced error by McCain, using "DoD" as a casual figure of speech--makes him sound like a beltway insider.

9:28PM - "We've let government get completely out of control" is a huge opening for Obama -- if he doesn't get hammering McCain about the fact that this is not the time to trim government, he's going to lose this debate.

9:26PM - Obama in charge with a pragmatic answer about budget realities and, finally, he's looking to the future with what he wants to do as President. Is he just now relaxing a little bit and getting into a groove? McCain may have already won this thing--a lot of people don't pay nearly as close attention after the first question or two. This is all good stuff, though: the science stuff, the energy independence stuff, the infrastructure stuff. McCain, of course, will say that none of this can be paid for.

9:25PM - "Under your tax plan, John, and this is undeniable" is Obama's first time on offense all night, and he looked good doing it. McCain should be on the defensive right now, and he's looking like it.

9:24PM - Is Jim Lehrer taking a nap?

9:23PM - Now wait a minute, McCain can't just decide that we're not going to move on the next question.

9:22PM - Why don't Democrats ever hit the other guy in these things? We're a quarter of the way into the debate and Obama hasn't swung back once.

9:21PM - Our first "My Friends" of the night! Everybody in the room has to drink, now.

9:19PM - Obama hits back, but he still needs to push McCain on his own track-record on earmarks, and he's still reluctant to do that for some reason. Steven Colbert asked McCain about this when McCain was running for President in 2000, and if Colbert knew about it in 2000, I refuse to believe that Obama's people didn't know about it last night.

9:17PM - McCain has the upper hand right now because Obama tried to change the subject, which makes him look guilty on the subject of earmarks -- which is a major missed opportunity for Obama. McCain has a far, far worse track-record on the subject and Obama didn't say a word about it.

9:16PM - Barack, you've just been pitched a softball -- if you don't hit it out of the park, you're going to look weak. Talking about the difference between earmarks and tax-cuts makes it sound like you're trying to duck the question of earmarks, when in fact you should be hitting back hard on this issue.

9:15PM - Now, wait a minute -- that business about how Republicans came to Washington and got changed by Washington -- that's not going to begin to cut it with the general public.

9:13PM - This "American worker" thing isn't going to cut it. It's non-responsive and dreamy and a lot of people will recognize that he's still being defensive about the "economy is strong" gaffe in Jacksonville.

9:11PM - Obama is hitting the issue of the past awfully, awfully hard here -- he's making this about the track-record, and the public will respond to him better, I think, if he's the guy with the better plan for what's next. He should be hitting this, to be sure, but not all front-loaded in this way.

9:10PM - Hey, John? You're not going to make anybody feel more comfortable about your age if you start a debate answer with a wistful homage to the letter-writing prowess of Dwight Eisenhower. Obama left a golden opening, and McCain blew it.

9:08PM - I don't think Obama's strongest gambit on the financial crisis is to waggle his resume at us like this -- he should position himself as the guy with the better ideas moving forward; McCain is just going to come back with his own "I warned about this, I warned about that..."

9:07PM- Neither of these guys looks like he's completely in charge of the discussion right now but Obama looks more comfortable by a longshot.

9:06PM - Crazy of McCain to start by saying that he's not feeling well -- he wanted it to be about the way things have been going, but that's an enormous unforced error on his part, to leave the infinitive about his physical well-being dangling out there like that.

9:05PM - Took Obama a minute or two to get comfortable but he got his shot in, at the end.

9:02PM - ROUND ZERO GOES TO.... Barack Obama looks far more statesmenlike and in charge of his situation. McCain looks very, very reluctant to be there.

8:55PM - I'm at the home of a friend and we're getting ready for the big show. Hit your refresh button from time to time to see the most current update. Final pre-game questions: Will Obama win the stature war? Will McCain appear as confused as he's acted in the past few days? Will he rech back for a big touchdown?

I'll know at the same time you do.....


Anonymous said...

at 10:05, I disagree with your friends. I think McCain is winning hands down. Obama is doing the Gore thing by trying to explain everything. They (people) said they didn't want to be talked down to.

Anonymous said...

10:32--You forgot to mention Montana getting burned off with the "bear DNA" remark.
Yeah, it was like Obama felt sorry for the guy and wasn't fighting. Yeesh. Nobody loves a wimp.

A. Gordon said...

I was generally underwhelmed by both candidates. The only things I have to say are:

1. This was supposed to be McCain's strong point and it didn't come across that way. Sure, he name dropped and spoke a lot about history, but the average American isn't going to know who any of the people he mentioned are. This was by far Obama's weakest point and I thought that while he may not have won it, he didn't lose it.

2. McCain never looked at Obama once during the debate whereas Obama looked at McCain (and the camera) every time he was speaking. We had a bunch of friends over and 2 have master's degrees in Psych. Their response: gaze avoidance indicates fear. Additionally, many times when McCain spoke, you get the impression that he doesn't believe what he's saying - kind of in a faux sarcastic tone that reeks of patronizing.

3. As the discussion switches to domestic policy and the economy, I think Obama is going to wax the floor with McCain because McCain still, even during this debate, still has not said specifically what he will do other than cut taxes and cut spending.

nowherem said...

Obama played nice, a good move for this first debate. Reaganesque: polite to the old man, agreeing with him, smiling. Obama won the independents with this tactic. Later, he will kick McGrumpy's ass.