I was never on the debate team in High School. Always thought I’d be pretty good at it – I love to challenge people with whom I disagree, and enjoy the give-and-take when someone can argue their positions with facts and logic (as opposed to rhetoric and emotion.
I watched the debate last night with interest. The candidate on the side I’m pulling for (the conservative side, if there was ever any doubt) is not known for his inspiring speeches or magnetic personality. The guy on the left (Obama) is all about lofty rhetoric, but generally short on specifics, not to mention logic. Then of course, you have to factor in the pundits. “McCain needs to put Obama away to win this.” “Obama is in the lead, he just needs to not screw up…a draw is a win for him.” “Both candidates need to deal with specifics, so we can get past the slogans and see real plans.” Um, yeah. I made that last one up. Nobody in the media has been saying anything like that.
So, how did it go? I dunno. I think Obama started strong, but then got more and more rattled as the night went on. McCain did surprisingly well, but I don’t know if that was enough to move undecideds into his column. I think this election is gonna come down to the wire. I would like to make a few observations on last night’s performances:
- Somebody must have told Obama and Biden that it would be psychologically devastating to keep referring to Senator McCain as “John.” Their intent was – and is – to trivialize his status in the Senate, and by extension, his experience. They did it so uniformly, it MUST be by design. It came off (to me, anyway) as tacky and somewhat sophomoric. Or sophomoronic. You decide.
- Obama can parrot stats back like a well-coached actor, but he seems to be all stats and no substance. I could almost see the database search going on in his head, as he spun his mental Rolodex to find the appropriate response.
- McCain missed a LOT of opportunities to put Obama away last night – but he did a good job mixing it up. Rather than an artful boxer who can avoid punches and darts in fast to score telling blows, he’s more like the guy who just gets in and relentlessly pounds the other guy, and will not stop. Whatever works, Senator. Whatever works.
- Obama is slick. Really slick. And I’m afraid that in today’s sound bite world (and with the media’s bias toward the Democrats), I’m afraid that Obama wins style points that will make a bigger impression with the public than will McCain’s substance.
- McCain better hope that Palin does a killer job on Biden, and that he can raise his game by the time the next debate comes around. Barring that, McCain’s best hope for a serious shift towards his side is that some international/national security crisis overshadows the news of the economy between now and November.