Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate React?

I think the primary theme of the debate for me was how close both candidates, especially in their non-verbal behavior, mirrored their campaign behavior in the debate. McCain appeared snarky, petulant, and annoyed at many moments; while Obama was calm, measured, yet forceful. I watched the coverage on NBC and they had the split shot going for the majority of the debate, and if you go back and watch it with the volume off, I think you might catch a bit of what I'm suggesting. And don't underestimate the importance of non-verbal signals; Al Gore's sighs may have cost him in 2000; Bush 41 looking at his watch may have cost him in 1992. Additional quick hitters:

- McCain hurts his image, especially the developing narrative of his lack of knowledge concerning domestic issues, with his fetish on earmarks. Spending isn't just earmarks - and many of which are for legitimate projects -it's inexorably tied with revenue, and McCain's tax plan just isn't going to make up for any decreases in earmarks.

- Obama's knife and scalpel analogy played well, and supported a narrative of the two candidates that's to Obama's benefit - with McCain being an unpredictable battering ram, and Obama being a measured tactician.

- You have to think that McCain's belittling of Obama, the snarky putdowns of "naivete" or "simply does not understand," hurts his standing with the swing voters; it doesn't appear Presidential; it paints him, ironically, as naive; and most significantly, viewers could see it as untrue when Obama responds to his putdowns by demonstrating an ample understanding of foreign policy.


The Dude said...

One last comment. I don't know if any of y'all caught 9-11iani/Father of the Worst Golfer in Duke History interviewed on NBC after the debate, but Rudy Giulliani is the biggest douchebag in the world. Obama saying "John McCain is absolutely right;" doesn't mean that he's getting a lesson on foreign policy from John McCain. When paired with remarks following his multiple agreements with McCain, Obama showed a respectful attitude toward his opponent, a command of the relevant issues, and a willingness to come to agreement with the other side - which is an absolute prerequisite to fostering bipartisanship to achieve progress.

Giulliani, go back to trying to win Florida and stop polluting the airwaves with your absolute gibberish.

Head Dude said...

Well Dude, I think you gave the interpretation the Obama campaign would like to spin -- I've also heard some say it was Obama who seemed a little perturbed at times while McCain stayed calm. And if you like McCain, you see the "he just doesn't understand" as fitting the narrative of Obama as inexperienced. If you like Obama, you see it as snarky.
Honestly, I thought the debate was a toss-up, which benefits Obama because he's ahead, particularly if voters achieve a comfort level with him in foreign policy.
I saw CNN's flash poll gave Obama the win, as did their focus group, so that's a good thing.
The day-after reaction can be unpredictable, so we'll see what happens. But I suspect the debate didn't change the trajectory of the race very much.
For Obama that's not a bad thing, though it's also true that a decisive win tonight could've put the race away given all that's gone on the last few weeks, and I don't think that happened.