I think this is the first time McCain scored some major points.
He could have been cleaner at times, but overall he forced several issues that Obama has clearly been running from: Bill Ayers, ACORN, and a general impression that Obama isn’t being honest (or at least totally forthcoming) with the American people. All were critical things to introduce if McCain’s chances were to increase, or at least to not decrease. One thing I think he really dropped badly was Obama’s assertions about how many small businesses make over $250,000 per year, and therefore how many would be hit by his tax cuts. The facts are readily available – most of them. He could have really hammered Obama on a MAJOR issue with that. Similarly, he should have hit the 95% tax cut thing again – I still think that’s a great campaign line that people really like to hear, even though it’s not true at all. It is McCain’s responsibility to force Obama to clarify it, and he should have done that tonight.
Personally, I would have liked to see him push Obama for more details about his relationships with Ayers and ACORN (there are plenty of things that are recent, the ‘education’ that Ayers does — funded by Obama when he was on the board — as a teacher is radical, government-overthrowing education, etc.), but at least we got something. Still, he allowed Obama to get away with some serious…well, let’s be charitable and call them stretches of the truth. Same goes for the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, on which Obama’s position is absolutely indefensible if McCain would have bothered to pin him down on it.
I honestly believe Barack Obama appeared to be uninspired, and floundered a bit. He really didn’t have a good answer for ACORN or Ayers, simply recycling old talking points from his lame commercials. While his excuses will certainly be enough to satisfy all of his Kool-Aid drinking Obots who have exhibited no tendency to think independently, I think he flubbed those answers for intelligent fence-sitters. It almost seemed that he was tired of having to defend himself, and that didn’t come off well. His goal — if reports are to be believed — was to simply play it cool and not screw up. I think that was a mistake, because he looked tired and/or bored, and he screwed up a couple of times. A little more heat would have helped him combat McCain’s attacks.
One area in which I think McCain definitely had the moral high ground was in the question of condemning all the vicious statements being thrown around. He clearly won this one, and Obama looked silly trying to defend someone else’s negative statements about McCain. And, I noticed that Obama never did come around to condemn things as McCain has repeatedly done.
It never ceases to amaze me how Obama sounds like a conservative with his talk of tax cuts, and it’s almost as amazing to me how bad McCain is at pointing out the truth of Obama’s proposals. If McCain had been more effective, he would have been able to point to Obama’s tax ‘cuts‘ as another way in which Obama is being disingenous with the American people, because there is nothing resembling a cut in there! Alas, he did not. I guess that’s up to us.
Obama constantly attempts to tie McCain to Bush, and has done so effectively on a number of issues. Tonight, McCain finally broke through that tie, talking just about as often about the mistakes of the last 8 years as Obama did. He also had a good zinger about how if Obama wanted to run against Bush he should have done it four years ago.
Overall, McCain looked assertive without being a jerk, knowledgeable and experienced, and, despite some verbal stumbling, I think he communicated far more effectively than in the previous debates. I think he’ll get at least a bit of a bump out of this because the GOP base wants a fight, and McCain finally showed that he’s willing to mix it up at least a little bit. I think the biggest thing that McCain did was to show the deceit regularly applied by Barack Obama, especially when coupled with his big-government policies. With proper care and feeding, that can translate into victory in three weeks.
So, there are my thoughts. What about the real experts?
Something I thought was interesting was CNN’s coverage, which included a real-time meter on uncommitted Ohio voters. I went back and watched the debate on fast-forward, just looking at the meter results as the two candidates spoke. There’s a definite approval for energy independence and fixing the economy. There were very few negative dips, which I take to mean that they both avoided obvious verbal flubs. The other interesting thing is that the line for women seemed to run higher for Obama, while the line for men seemed to run higher for McCain. I’m guessing this could be explained by the more aggressive tone of McCain’s statements.
For another scorecard of the entire debate, check out Hugh Hewitt here. In his analysis, Hewitt says that Joe the Plumber [the plumber who asked Obama why he was increasing taxes on small businesses at a recent stop, and Obama said he wanted to ‘spread the wealth around’] stole the show, which definitely helped McCain, who was standing up for Joe for the entire debate. Hewitt also maintains that McCain succeeded in portraying Obama as a big-government liberal whose words can’t be trusted. The summary:
A very good night for John McCain overall. Obama had a chance to end the campaign tonight, but just the opposite happened. Obama was in the prevent defense mode, and McCain moved the ball a long way down the field.
Michelle Malkin has this to say:
No, there weren’t any knockout punches.
But John McCain was still standing at the end of the night — doubts about his fortitude adequately quelled — and Barack Obama ought to be wiping the smirk he borrowed from Joe Biden off his face.
Joe Wurzelbacher the Plumber was a heaven-sent gift for the McCain campaign, and for once, McCain didn’t flub the opportunity to rub the infamous “spread the wealth around” line in Obama’s smug face. Obama’s tin-ear response? Citing his billionaire “friend” Warren Buffett!
Alas, Ayers and ACORN receded into the background. But McCain brought the education debate to the present and spotlighted Obama’s anti-school choice policies that render him woefully out of touch with increasing numbers of minority families.
The best line of the night may have been unplanned (or maybe not)? In jabbing Obama’s spend-spend-spend plans, McCain called him “Senator Government.”
It’s a fitting moniker for the Democrat candidate who spent the whole night talking about “investing” other people’s money. Perfect.
McCain ought to call him that from now until Nov. 4.
I think that’s a great idea!
Mark Levin offers this:
McCain is doing something tonight that not only he hasn’t done before, but neither have the media — he is holding Obama to account for his actual record of comments and actions, and he is stating his position in terms that, IMHO, can and I believe will resonate with many Americans. And he has been doing this from the start of the debate. He’s not going to change his position on some issues where we conservatives disagree with him tonight, but he is scoring big.
In his one-of-a-kind characteristic style, Mark Steyn suggests the following:
We need a series of Joe the Plumber-meets-Senator Government ads.
Oh, and several readers e-mailed variations on the “Bob the Builder” theme song:
Joe the Plumber!
Can we tax him?
…Yes, we can!
I think he’s right about the ads, but mostly I’m amused by the new theme song idea. 🙂
Anyway, what about the other side? Well, a CBS poll said this:
Fifty-three percent of the uncommitted voters surveyed identified Democratic nominee Barack Obama as the winner of tonight’s debate. Twenty-two percent said Republican rival John McCain won. Twenty-four percent saw the debate as a draw.
Sixty-three percent think Obama will raise their taxes, while forty-eight percent think McCain will.
With Obama being essentially crowned the Emperor already, I think it’s fair to say that he had the upper hand. So, for 46% to think that he didn’t win is a big deal. I think it’s also a bad sign for Obama that almost two out of three uncommitted voters understand that he is going to raise their taxes through the roof. The economy is the key issue, and that tax thing won’t help him.
Finally, let’s look at Powerline’s summary of a couple polls. First, the Drudge Report:
Not a good sign for Obama. The Kos kids apparently haven’t gotten around to stacking the polls yet, because even the AP grudgingly admits McCain won the debate tonight. Of course, they’re quick to assure everyone that Obama will still win the election…
So, what we have here is a clear case of John McCain finally tapping into the passion of his base and picking some of the fights that really needed to be picked. Obama didn’t kill himself, but he will probably take a hit for his bland performance – instead of putting McCain away, he allowed McCain back in the door. Even some in the MSM were forced to concede the evening to McCain, and that’s got to sting. Expect the race to tighten even more as the post-debate polls start coming in a few days from now.
There’s my two cents.