Seemed like two debates- the first part about the economy/ bailout and the second part about foreign policy. To me, Obama won the first part by default because McCain seemed unwilling to engage. He allowed Obama to paint the housing/ mortgage crisis as a Bush/ Republican mistake of the last 8 years. The reality is that this is a direct result of the expansion of the Community Reinvestment Act in 1995 that basically forced banks to provide (more and more) mortgages for affordable housing- which led to the creation of ‘Subprime Loans’. Further, both Bush and McCain tried to impose more regulation on the GSE’s over the last 5 years and have been stymied by the Democrat Congress– many of whom have received huge contributions from those very GSE’s (including Obama- #2 in terms of money received from Freddie and FNMA). Franklin Raines- former head of FNMA- was an advisor to Obama. This issue should have been thrown right back at him, and McCain for some reason just let him score the points and mumbled about earmarks. Not to mention that he made no political points about the lead role he has (supposedly) taken on getting a bailout deal done, while Obama left town early. Missed opportunities…
Same problem on tax policy- which is absolutely a HUGE issue with me. He allowed Obama to repeat his line about giving 95% of workers a tax cut, while raising taxes only on the top 5%. For goodness sake, 45% don’t even pay income taxes! How is he going to give them a tax cut? I hate this class warfare nonsense and McCain let him slide on that as well.
Now, when the talk turned to foreign policy, it was a wipeout in McCain’s favor. Obama sounded well-versed on the issues, but clearly didn’t have the range of knowledge and context in some cases that McCain did. I thought McCain won this portion handily and scored several points when he repeatedly pointed out that Obama ‘just doesn’t understand’ certain foreign policy issues.
Stylistically, at the beginning it didn’t seem like McCain was all that interested in being there and Obama was just hammering him with no counter at all. Once McCain warmed up a bit and became more forceful- once he joined the fight- Obama got a little bit rattled I thought. He repeatedly talked over and interrupted McCain, called him John instead of Senator, and flashed anger a couple of times. But really the bottom line on the foreign policy part for me was that it sounded like someone whose knowledge of all of the issues came solely from books and lectures versus someone whose knowledge came from the field. A do-er versus a talker. One thing that stuck out to me about Obama was how comfortable he was/ is with the far left positions on Iraq (i.e. not focusing on where we are today and how do we end it because he can’t stop talking about how we should have never gone- which is irrelevant at this point), taxes, nationalized healthcare, everything is about Bush, etc. Have we ever had a candidate with a real shot at winning that is this liberal? or cocky?
The talking heads seem to be saying that Obama won with a tie, since he just needed to look plausible as a president and not commit a big gaffe. Let’s just hope that is the same standard they apply to Palin next week.
Edit-one more style comment. I have been saying for about 8 months that Obama would win the debates simply on looks- tall, young guy that looks good in a suit next to someone that looks like your Grandpa. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined it might be tonight, but McCain needs to be very cognizant of sounding assertive and energetic to combat this because it is a visual contrast that works against him.