John McCain tells voters that he can bring change. If his performance in the debate last night was any indication of what he considers change, he can't and won't bring the kind of change that most people are looking for.
Most voters I talk to, Republicans and Democrats alike, speak of a new kind of politics. Many Republicans I know aren't looking for policy change as much as they are looking for a change from the fear, hate and anger politics that took over the Republican Party during the Bush/Rove years. If they watched the debate with an honest eye last night, they didn't see a man willing or able to deliver that change.
The debate was scheduled to be on foreign policy, John McCain's alleged strength. The problem for McCain is that to succeed in this realm he has to be diplomatic. He has to be able to negotiate with those who respect us and those who do not. John McCain proved that he couldn't share a stage and look another American in the eye last night. How can he possibly look Vladimir Putin in the eye and see the letters K, G, B? If he doesn't have the diplomatic skills to share a stage with Barack Obama and be civil, there is no way John McCain has the temperament to sit across a table and negotiate with the leaders of countries that don't like us.
Greenberg, Quinlan and Democracy Corps released numbers for a dial group last night from St. Louis, Missouri. [edit: last night we were told the group was in Las Vegas, Nevada] The basic results from a group that leans decidedly right showed Obama with a stronger performance.
During and after the debate, Democracy Corps conducted a set of dial and focus groups among 45 undecided voters in St. Louis, Missouri. These voters had an unmistakably Republican tilt, voting for President Bush by a 2-to-1 margin in 2004 and self-identifying as 33 percent Republican and 27 percent Democrat. But playing on his perceived strength of national security and before a friendly audience, McCain could only manage a draw among this group. Of our 45 initial undecided voters, a quarter moved to Obama and a quarter to McCain after the debate with the rest remaining undecided. Moreover, by a 38 to 27 percent margin these voters said that Obama won this debate.
The group's dial results (full report found here) showed that Obama made gains in the categories, "shares your values", "has what it takes to be president" and "can trust him to make the right decision." Obama made significant gains in the categories "independent", "on your side" and "shares your values." Obama lost ground on one category and it turns out to be a positive change for him. On the category, "will leave Iraq too quickly" fewer people thought this was true after the debate than prior to the debate.
The group's dial results showed that McCain made gains in the categories "tied to Washington special interests" and "too eager to go to war." He made significant gains in the category of "maverick." McCain lost ground in the category "offers a different path than Bush." Prior to the debate 47% thought McCain offered a different path and after the debate 44% thought McCain offered a different path.
One final point. There were some on DailyKos and other sites who thought that John McCain's talking over Barack Obama showed strength. I think there may have even been some folks here who thought that McCain won with this tactic because Obama remained civil and courteous. Remember the following performance from Elizabeth Dole? Nobody here thought Elizabeth Dole won with this type of behavior. John McCain won't win with it either. Hold him to the same standards you hold Elizabeth Dole. It isn't strong, diplomatic or a sign of leadership to be rude.
All in all, I give the night to Barack Obama. What do you think?