Barack Obama met John McCain tonight on McCain's home turf--foreign policy--and Obama won.

In deep trouble on the economy, with the blush faded from an initial positive reaction to his naming Palin as his ticket mate, John McCain came into tonight's debate in desperate need of a win. Not only did he not get that win--he was thrashed.

Obama scored early with his clear, strong statement on the key points needed in any financial rescue package. He hit a key chord with voters when he emphasized addressing the economic crises of the middle class. And when McCain rolled out his tired lie that Obama would raise taxes on most Americans, Obama confronted it directly and slapped it down hard. Millions of Americans heard Obama clearly explain that he would cut taxes on 95% of working families, all those earning less than $250,000 a year.

Once the debate turned to its featured topic, foreign policy, Obama again took command. He turned directly to McCain and called him out for being dangerously wrong on the basic decision to invade Iraq; and he connected that disastrous decision to the rising problems in our economy, our falling image around the world, and our inability to deal with other, more critical challenges abroad. Obama clearly framed the key question as not who had the longer resume, but who showed the stronger judgment.

Obama scored with viewers every time he emphasized the necessity of investing in energy independence, of dealing with unaffordable health care, and of restoring America's economic security.

McCain wanted the debate to contrast the safe veteran with the supposedly dangerous neophyte. Instead, Obama made it a contrast between continuing the failures of the last eight years, and bringing positive change for a stronger future.

In post-debate analysis, the pundits generally saw the score clearly: McCain needed a big win and didn't come close; Obama dominated on the economy and stood toe to toe with McCain in the older man's supposed area of expertise, foreign policy.

Then the early polling numbers started to come in, and the tone shifted further. Overall, viewers scored the debate by 51% to 38% as a win for Obama versus McCain. Among viewers, Obama edged McCain on his handling of foreign policy issues; and on the economy, the gap expanded to blowout range.

Make no mistake--the McCain camp (and the Republican campaign machine in general) will not give up. As their desperation increases, their swings will get wilder and their blows lower. To win this election, Democrats can't let up for a day between now and November 5. We will have to press every advantage, hard and relentlessly.

Tonight, Barack Obama gave that effort another solid push forward.


Good analysis, Dan...

The only criticism I could make about Obama has to do with his style of not emphasizing where McCain comes up short. He mentioned a couple times how McCain wants to tax benefits, but only very briefly. This is something he needs to expand on, because his polling is the weakest with seniors. McCain went to great lengths to expand on his support of the 'surge', which to the usual news hack, like myself, was dumb. But to those who don't analyze much, it sounds like he's the macho guy, who will bring us 'victory'. Also, Obama needs to pound McCain's record of non-support of veteran legislation, and bring up the votes. This would be a real eye-opener, but the Dems, for some reason, avoid doing that.


I'm very happy to hear about the after-debate polling.

I would have liked to see Obama a little more aggressive/forceful on the issue of taxing and spending; it seemed like McCain was determined to pontificate on this subject and got away with it.

Did you see McCain when Obama brought up "Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran"? I was hoping he would blow his top and show his butt.

McCain may have come across as "strong" to those who like him, but I saw him as fearful, disdainful and threatened; unable to best his opponent in looking "Presidential."

Denno, I too wonder why McCain's non-support of vets (which he constantly lies about and trumpets) isn't more often exposed. My understanding is that vet organizations give him low marks compared to Obama.

Dan, I can't wait to see your analysis of next Thursday night! :)

Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war. - John McCain


I'll try Thursday, but I've got another commitment that evening and may have to watch it on tape later.

I'm worried that Palin has been so incompetent in her interviews, and expectations for her are now so low, that she'll be viewed as "winning" her debate when she manages to avoid drooling on herself on camera. That was Bush's effective strategy for debate "victory" in 2000.

I'm hoping for another big flub along the lines of "Bush Doctrine? In what regard do you mean Peter?"

Dan Besse

Dan Besse

No Eye Contact

I couldn't believe that McCain wouldn't even look at Obama. It's hard to have a discussion with somebody who doesn't acknowledge you are there. It's okay. It made McCain look like the jerk that he is.


RIP - Paul Newman

checked in the big orange and found this, msm not carrying much about it yet. I loved this man.

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions


McCain kept smirking at Obama's responses. This nasty little smile of contempt. And actually, I noticed Obama smile in frustration at McCain once or twice too.

I refuse to believe that Obama and McCain don't have the self-control to not smirk at an opponent that each respects. So they must be doing it on purpose? That makes me think that it is known to be an effective way of conveying that what your opponent is saying is wrong (i.e. laughable).

I wonder how important non-verbal communication is in national debates.

- - - - -
McCain - The Third Bush Term

I think that Obama did the

I think that Obama did the same thing by constantly shaking his head while McCain spoke. I don't think either was trying to disrespect the other, it's all mind games.

And I'm not sure that was a blowout at all.

Not that I'm promoting Faux News, but

I wonder how important non-verbal communication is in national debates.

they've been analyzing body language from clips of interviews Bill O'Reilly has done, and the lady psychologist (I think) has pointed out some of Bill's more horrific expressions from time to time. It's kind of interesting.

Sets the tone

Non-verbal communication helps set the tone and context for what's said. McCain's attacks were less effective precisely because he did not turn and confront Obama directly. Obama's direct attacks, more limited in number, were more powerful because he showed non-verbal confidence in delivering them literally to McCain's face.

I don't think that the smiles/smirks were pronounced enough to rise above the background noise level, as it were. They were within the range of expressions you'd expect as normal reactions. I think that it take a more emphatic or theatrical gesture (Gore's repeated sighs, Daddy Bush's checking his wristwatch) to stick strongly in viewers' minds.

Dan Besse

Dan Besse

Re: Non verbal communication

One of the most interesting books I've ever read was The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat, by Oliver Sacks. (Sachs?) He was/is a neuropsychologist working with aphasic patients. These patients, either through injury or illness, had lost function in one hemisphere of the brain or the other.

He sat down a group of them to watch Ronald Reagan give a speech.

Those who had lost function of the right hemisphere of the brain, that which allows us to interpret feeling, emotion, etc., had to rely on pure intellectual analysis of what Reagan was saying.

Those that had lost function of the left side of the brain, that which allows us to reason logically, had to rely on pure emotional reaction to what Reagan was saying.

Sachs, on the other hand, had a normally functioning, rather highly educated brain.

When the speech was over, Sachs thought that Reagan had made a good case for whatever it was, and was satisfied that the president was not leading the country astray.

The left brain group, however, said, no, nothing he said made any sense. It was not logical. Therefore, he was lying.

The right brain group also said that he was lying.

So Sachs listened to the same speech without being able to see Reagan's face or body movements. The left brainers were right. The words made no sense.

Then he watched the speech with no sound. The right brainers were also right, Reagan looked like a liar. He shifted his eyes, looked up and away from the camera, touched his arms, and face, and did a lot of the visual cues that someone gives when they are lying.

Of course this is a paraphrase - it's been years since I've read the book. But I find it instructive to watch part of each political speech or event with the sound muted to see who is lying. Try it some time. (McCain did some fabricating or covering up last night.)

very cool

Very cool. I know I for one was working during the debate and so only was listening to most of it, and McCain was definitely lying for good chunks of it.

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"

Obama works overtime

to control negativity and the amount of time he spends on attacking the other candidate. It's good strategy, because as the new guy he carries the burden of explaining who he is and what he wants. As the "change" candidate, he has to help voters understand exactly what he wants to change TO. Like all Democrats, he has tasks that he wants government to pursue effectively. All of these factors raise the threshold level he has to meet in order to have explained himself effectively.

In contrast, McCain's entire strategy is to attack Obama personally, and to win he must focus on convincing voters that Obama is dangerously untested.

This combination almost requires Obama to leave potential solid counter-punches unthrown, because they distract from his fundamental task of persuading voters that he himself knows what he is doing and has plans that will work. (He has to connect with a few solid hits just to avoid looking weak, but they need to be limited in number and strategically selected.)

Tactically, Obama left a number of openings unused because of this overall dynamic. That's not as satisfying to us partisans as an unrelenting pummeling of McCain would have felt, but we aren't the primary audience. The targeted watchers are undecided or weakly decided voters who are still asking the questions of who is Obama and what does he want to do for them.

Dan Besse

Dan Besse

we aren't the primary

we aren't the primary audience. The targeted watchers are undecided or weakly decided voters who are still asking the questions of who is Obama and what does he want to do for them.

Maybe by the 3rd debate, the poll numbers will be far enough apart that Obama will feel free to take some of those shots just for a little partisan satisfaction. ::sigh::

I know I shouldn't feel that way. But it would feel good.

Not for partisan will be to land

the deciding knock out blow. Of course, nothing wrong with feeling a bit of satisfaction at seeing McCain reeling.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Debate Party

I held a small debate party on Friday. One of the people in attendance was a two-time Bush voter turned Obama supporter.

The reason his opinion interested me so much was that as a lifelong Republican, would McCain's showing take him back to the other side.

When it was over, I thought it was a win for Obama politically, but a tie as debates go. His opinion: Obama won handily. It only solidified his support.

So while my first instinct was not "blowout," I think Dan is right to say it was in the big picture.