The Debate That Almost Wasn't
Which Candidate Won The First Presidential Debate?
Based upon their performance, which candidate do you believe won the first Presidential Debate?See results without voting
Both Candidates Exceed Expectations
By JAMES F. HENRY
Bull Moose Magazine Publisher
OK, I've got to admit that I was really looking forward to the first of three Presidential debates because I was so looking forward to watching John McCain crash and burn in a most inspirational way. I mean, with the erratic way McCain had been behaving the past couple of weeks leading up to the debate, such a scenario was plausible. Unfortunately, I didn't get what I was seeking. And so McCain, whose campaign was teetering on the very edge of a deep, dark abyss, has managed to find stable ground, for now.
That's not to say, John, that I think you have successfully righted the ship. Not by a long shot, because I also believe that Barack Obama performed better than I had expected. So I don't see you gaining in the polls, based solely on your performance.
Both candidates had their high points and low points. I'll start with Barack Obama, but don't worry John...I've got plenty for you!
Barack, my friend, I've got to remind you that John McCain is the enemy here, and his Republican handlers will use your words against you eight days a week! So next time, please, please, please, please, PLEASE do not talk about how "right" McCain is about anything, even if you follow up such comments with contrasting information that was your main message any way! I mean, you may have scored a few points for diplomacy, but I can just imagine Karl Rove and his henchmen giggling with glee as the video editor was cutting and splicing your words to put into their advertisement that was released immediately after the debate. We don't need to give them anything they can shoot in your direction.
On the other hand, Obama did send a message to voters who previously considered him to be too soft on international affairs. He correctly reminded Americans that it was Osama Bin Laden who ordered the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and made it very clear that he would go to any length (including crossing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to capture and "kill" Bin Laden, if the Pakistani government was unwilling or unable to do so.) I was particularly moved by his use of the word kill, because if Obama were truly too soft, he would simply say capture, leaving the door open that Bin Laden could live.
Obama also came off as much more diplomatic than McCain. While Obama discussed the need for top-level diplomacy between the United States and rogue regimes such as Iran, North Korea and Venezuela he reminded everyone that McCain was seen singing "Bomb Iran." Yes, John, we saw you smirk after that gaffe, but we also noticed that you did not respond to that barb.
Now let's talk about McCain. I can't be the only one who noticed that McCain could not bring himself to even glance at Obama during this debate, even as the two men shook hands before and after the debate. It made McCain look inflexible, rigid, and not just a bit childish, as it reminded me of my two oldest children who fight like cats and dogs.
There was inconsistency in McCain's message too. On one hand, he tried to paint the picture of Obama having the most liberal voting record in the Senate (a charge they also leveled against John Kerry four years ago) but later trying to compare Barack Obama to George Bush! McCain said Obama's inflexibility to believe that the surge in Iraq was working reminds him of Bush. Obama, wisely, countered with the fact that McCain has supported the President with 90 percent of his votes over the past eight years.
There was a bit of role reversal going on, too. Going into the debate, pundits cautioned that Obama should not be too professorial, talking down to McCain. However, McCain tried time and time again to suggest that Obama doesn't understand various nuances of foreign policy, and the more often he tried that tactic, it seemed that he was the one who was preaching. Obama, meanwhile, seemed to be in command of his information, which made me feel comfortable that Obama would not be a foreign policy liability, like George W. Bush.
All in all, I think both candidates came away from the debate with enough to feel good about, but each wishing they could have hit the proverbial home run on multiple occasions. In the end, I believe Obama scored a victory because his standing in the polls has not suffered in the aftermath of this debate. As I write this, CNN's poll of polls has Obama leading 48 to 43 with 9 percent undecided. CBS/New York Times has Obama leading 47 to 42 with 11 percent undecided. Even the rabidly conservative Fox News poll has Obama leading 45 to 39 with 16 percent undecided. Lastly, CNN reports the latest Marist College poll has Obama with 49, McCain with 44 and 7 percent undecided.
There's another good reason why I feel optimistic about Obama's chances on November 4, and that is because Sarah Palin gets to go up against Joe Biden on Thursday. I can hardly wait!
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