So, I watched the debate in its entirety last night, as well as commentary from the different cable news networks. Just a few things I want to point out. I watched the debate on CNN, and at the bottom of the screen, there were three lines measuring response from three groups: Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. The Republican and Democrat lines were predictable. When their candidate was speaking, the respective response line went up, and when the other guy was talking, their response line went down. The interesting thing was the Independent reaction. Almost throughout the debate, anytime McCain was speaking, the Independent line was below the Republican line. They responded positively to McCain at times, but the Independent response was almost never more positive than the Republican response. But when Obama was talking, the Independent response line was frequently positive, and was sometimes even more positive than the Democrat response. The bottom line is that the Independents were much more favorable to Obama than they were to McCain. If this can translate to Independents going to the polls on November 4 and voting for Obama, he should win some of those swing states easily.
For being the expert on foreign policy, John McCain was not as convincing as I would have imagined. He threw in some names of people he's met and places he's been over the years. But he seemed to me to be stuck in the past. Stuck to the policies of ol' W and not very forward looking. Obama was sure to point that out on many occasions, and it was effective. I was really impressed that Obama more than held his own and stuck it to McCain that he was wrong on a number of issues, most importantly that we are in our present situation in Iraq because of the policies McCain championed along side Pres. Bush. McCain was stuck on the fact that the surge has worked. Sure, it's worked. But if we had never gone into Iraq in the first place, and focused on Osama bin Laden, we wouldn't have needed a surge to correct the mismanagement of that war anyway. Iraq was a diversion and distraction from the actual terrorists and Obama was right on that, McCain was dead wrong. Seven years after 9/11, bin Laden is still hiding out and organizing more terrorist activities.
I thought the demeanor of both candidates was also notable. In fact, there was quite a contrast. McCain, as has been pointed out by many of the pundits, rarely looked at Obama, while Obama made eye contact with McCain frequently. McCain seemed to get his feathers ruffled often and easily, while Obama remained cool, poised, and well, presidential. McCain was - as I have come to realize is typical of him - very rash, emotional, and defensive. He was quick to point out where he felt Obama was wrong on issues. In fact, a fact check on several of his claims will prove he exagerated the truth or just did not have his facts straight. All the pundits discussed Obama agreeing with McCain. Obama said on several occasions something like, "Sen. McCain is right about _____...." The Republicans all ran with that saying that Obama was agreeing with McCain on those things, and that this shows Obama's lack of experience. When in fact, if they were listening to the rest of Obama's sentences, he would follow up with something like, "...but I differ in this way:_____." Obama was certainly not endorsing McCain, but finding common ground and then drawing sharp contrasts in their positions. McCain seemed more petty and like he was trying to lecture Obama on why he was wrong. I just felt like Obama was more respectful to McCain than visa versa.
Anyway, I don't really want to get into the actual contents of the debate. By now, everyone can pretty much tell whose side of the debate I agree with the most. I just wanted to point out a few things. Neither candidate really knocked the other out. This is more beneficial to Obama than McCain. He really needed to upend Obama on foreign policy - his supposed field of expertise, but he absolutely did not. Obama seemed more level headed and thoughtful about the questions asked by Jim Lehrer, and kept McCain kind of scrambling the whole time. The immediate polls show that Obama won the debate among most viewers. Those polls were slightly skewed as there were more Democrats that responded to the polls than Republicans. That being the case, the debate probably resulted in a tie, which is a win for Obama. McCain really needed to make a strong case for himself, but I was not very impressed that he did so. His experience and judgment arguments did not go as well as he would have hoped, as Obama pointed out that his judgment has directly led to the debacle in Iraq, for which McCain had no counter-argument. In a debate that should have been a home run for McCain, he came out of it looking like someone who is emotional, quick to make a rash decision, and stuck to the old failed policies of the Bush administration, while Obama came out looking more like a thoughtful and respectful leader.