I just watched the first US Presidential Debate between McCain and Obama on CNN and McCain did not win. Considering Foreign Policy was supposed to be McCain’s strong suit in which he would “wipe the floor” with Obama, McCain was shaky and weak, stumbling at times, and was slaughtered by Obama on the economy as well as on Iraq. On the other hand, Obama came across as a strong, knowledgable, informed, choice with sensible strategies in tune with the voters. McCain certainly knew a few names though, quoting World War Two leaders, Alexander the Great, and Henry Kissinger (who was in Nixon’s administration) as well as a few world leaders. Shame McCain got the names he dropped wrong a couple of times though.
Along the bottom of the screen was a sensor line that indicated how the focus group audience felt about each candidate on a minute by minute basis. The line indicating the feelings of registered Republicans and Democrats went up when their candidate was speaking, but what was most interesting was how the independents reacted. Here, they clearly went more times with Obama than they did with McCain. And it’s the independents that are the swing voters whose opinions are the most important here. Win the independents over, and you win the election.
CNN of course gave a lot of impetus in their post-mortem of the event to Republican pundits and so called “experts” from the media, and were clearly pro-Republican. That’s a shame because they had a great opportunity to prove the mainstream media are independent, but I think everyone knows they aren’t.
Polls conducted immediately after the debate were all saying Obama won by a huge margin overall, by a huge margin on the economy – and even on the Foreign Policy issues that McCain holds up as his USP. McCain should really have done better here. Obama nailed him on tax – McCain wants to give tax breaks to the rich, Obama wants to give tax cuts to 95% of working Americans, and says nobody earning less than $250,000 will pay any extra tax on his plan. He also made the point that the money McCain wants to give to the rich will not be available to give to ordinary working people.
McCain has been slipping in the polls for some days now, and his risky choice of Sarah Palin as running mate is looking like an own goal if accounts of her performance in a CBS interview is anything to go by when even pro-Republican CNN said she was awful.
There’s still a long way to go of course, and next Thursday we’ll get to see the Vice-Presidential candidates debating for an hour and a half. Now that will be interesting!
Some interesting post debate polling stats can be found here.