Came in after it started. Picking it up with the question about negative campaigning. McCain nailed Obama to the wall on that one, and Obama is changing the subject. McCain is also coming across much more knowledgeable and direct. And experienced. McCain is also speaking in final draft, while Obama stumbles. Obama is a great public speaker, but a poor extemporizer.
McCain stepped in it with Ayers and Acorn. Obama gave his best response yet. Ayers and Acorn are red herrings, and they won’t wash.
Good question: about running mates. Obama gives the first response. All about Biden. It’s a good-enough answer. But not great. He said nothing about Palin. Smooth move. McCain’s response about Palin is better than Obama’s on Biden. Fact is there’s no comparison, but I’m giving this one to McCain, so far. Obama’s follow up is weak. He needs to say what’s wrong with Palin, I think now. He didn’t. Changed the subject to the costs of funding on special needs. Bad move. Now McCain is point by point doing to Joe Biden what Obama should have done to Sarah Palin.
Question on oil and energy. McCain’s response is strong.
Just noticed: they’re both left-handed.
Time for Obama to respond on the energy question. For the first time I see Obama looking into the camera. Taking money from China and giving it to Saudi Arabia again. Too simplistic. But Obama is being emphatic and clear. “We can’t drill our way out of the problem.” He still stumbles over his brain cramps when he’s uttering long sentences. Needs to fix that, if he can.
Obama: “I believe in free trade.” Really? The rest of his answer says no. But he made a good point about lack of automobile trade reciprocity with Korea.
Now McCain is nailing Obama on facts, or what sound like facts. The Columbia free trade agreeement, for example. McCain is acting smug and self-satisfied in pointing out that Obama has never traveled “south of the border”. Not sure it works. Obama’s defense against the hits are subject changes. Addressing energy consumption is good by Obama, but sounds blah.
McCain is now saying that Obama wants “to restrict trade and to raise taxes”. Obama just smiles. A hit with no counterpunch. And a credible one, given Obama’s other responses.
McCain: Real, but angry. Obama: Cool, but flat.
Health care is up. Obama talks to the camera. The usual halting pauses. The “Uncommitted Ohio Voters” are giving Obama high marks though, if the green and red lines at the bottom of the CNN screen are to be trusted.
McCain is giving a fairly strong response. Scoring with men (green line) and tanking with women (red line). Interesting, in a hypnotic way.
Obama is stronger on the health care question. Detailed, direct. Informative. Slipping when he goes into the McCain plan. “For the first time in history you’ll be taxing people’s health care benefits.” Ouch. But Obama still has those halting pauses, like somebody who has incompletely overcome stuttering. “His clutch is slipping,” my friend Joe (sitting next to me here) just said.
Andrew Sullivan: “I feel as tired of this as John McCain and Barack Obama look.”
Roe v. Wade is the current question. McCain is saying he doesn’t have a “litmus test.” Points out that Obama voted against appointing Breyer and Roberts for “ideological” reasons. McCain is sputtering on the abortion question. He has too much history on both sides of this one.
Obama won’t apply a litmus test, but says he believes Roe v. Wade was “rightly decided.” Obama is much stronger on this question. Obama: “The court needs to stand up when nobody else will.”
McCain: “We need to change the culture of America.” Going after Obama’s voting in Illinois. Once again McCain is scoring big with undecided Ohio men and the opposite with women. Obama’s defense is detailed and convincing. He opposes late term abortions except where the mother’s life is threatened.
Question on education, the last one.
Obama’s right thumb bends in, while his left thumb bends out. Basketball injury? (I ask because I have one of those. With a thumb.) His answer is blah. Good points about students taking on debt. The $4000 credit for tuition in exchange for community service is almost interesting. His point about parental responsibilty is a sop to the Right.
McCain: “Choice and competition among schools…” Charter schools… Give parents a choice… “Reward these good teachers.” Something about the military. “We need to have…” a roster of blah points.
Obama: “We agree on charter schools.” zzzzzz.
It’s weird that CNN has red on the left and blue on the right, even though Obama is positioned on the left side of the screen and McCain on the right.
McCain: “It’s a system that cries out for accountability.” A subject close to home for me. If it were up to “accountability,” I would have been washed out of high school in the 9th grade, because my grades and scores on standardized tests were bottom-tier. Anyway, whatever.
McCain’s closing remarks: “America needs a new direction. I have a record of reform…” He looks more tired now. He’s got a few hickups. “I’d be honored and humbled.”
Obama’s. “Same failed policies and same failed politics.” Yawn. “Our brighter days are still ahead… a new energy policies… It’s not gonna be easy, not gonna be quick… renew a spirit of sacrifice and responsibility… I will work every single day tirelessly… I would ask…” would? Feh. Weak ending by both men.
Okay. Bottom line: much more even than the earlier ones. I call it a toss-up, with maybe a slight edge to McCain.
Will it make much difference? I doubt it.
[Later...] Drezner: “The big winner was Joe the Plumber — the rest of us are screwed.”
Jay Rosen: “After Gore and Kerry, it became an accepted maxim in politics that you must hit back hard or lose. But this maxim has itself lost.” True. Obama payed rope-a-crank with McCain.
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Roger L. Simon: “The Obama-McCain debates will not be remembered like Lincoln-Douglas. In fact, I doubt they will be remembered at all.”
David Bernstein in Volokh: “Obama plays an excellent defense.”
The Onion: Bush Calls for Panic.
Okay, off to bed.
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