Who won last night's debate?
Overall - Obama: Went for a solid, consistent performance to introduce himself to the country. He did not seem nervous, tentative, or intimidated by the event, and avoided mistakes from his weak debate performances during nomination season (a professorial tone and long winded answers). Standing comfortably on the stage with his rival, he showed he belonged — evocative of Reagan, circa 1980. He was so confident by the end that he reminded his biggest audience yet that his father was from Kenya. Two more performances like that and he will be very tough to beat on Election Day. Overall grade: A-
Overall - McCain: McCain was McCain — evocative, intense, and at times emotional, but also vague, elliptical, and atonal. Failed to deliver his "country first versus Obama first" message cleanly, even when offered several opportunities. Surprisingly, did not talk much about "change," virtually ceding the dominant issue of the race. Overall grade: B-
Poll Results Suggest More Uncommitted Voters Saw Obama As Debate Winner:
Thirty-nine percent of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. Twenty-four percent thought John McCain won. Thirty-seven percent saw it as a draw. Forty-six percent of uncommitted voters said their opinion of Obama got better tonight. Thirty-two percent said their opinion of McCain got better.
Sixty-six percent of uncommitted voters think Obama would make the right decisions about the economy. Forty-two percent think McCain would. Forty-eight percent of these voters think Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq. Fifty-six percent think McCain would.
Below are some McCain's mistakes (lies?) that many voters did probably not notice:
11:47: CNN’s Roland Martin’s reaction to the debate: “John McCain, how dare you come and give a debate and you don’t even say the word ‘middle class.’”
11:34: Yglesias observes, "I’ve seen Joe Biden doing aggressive surrogate appearances on every network I’ve flipped to. I imagine he’s hitting all of them. Sarah Palin, by contrast, isn’t doing any networks."
11:17: CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour said she "giggled" when McCain messed up the pronunciation of Ahmadinejad's name. When Anderson Cooper asked her if it was really "fair" to criticize him for that, she replied, "Why not? If it's fair for anybody -- Why not? If I stumbled, it would be a fair comment."
11:04: Keith Olbermann highlights the fact that McCain admitted that the U.S. tortures. McCain has previously said waterboarding is torture, while noting that the U.S. has waterboarded. He also references the Zardari gaffe.
11:00: On ABC, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called McCain’s claim that he has consistently supported alternative energy “a howler.” Friedman also quipped that McCain wouldn’t be able to pay for his new nuclear power plants by cutting $18 billion in earmarks.
10:58: Sen. Lindsey Graham on Fox: “Senator Obama, you’re not just naive, you’re dangerous.” (that's the type of comments you would expect from Fox News)
10:50: On CNN, Wolf Blitzer mentions the gaffe on Zardari’s name and says, “I don’t know where he got that. … It’s a difficult name for Americans to remember and pronounce, but you wouldn’t think John McCain would slip up on that.”
10:49: Fox’s Carl Cameron observed that Obama said that “I agree with John” at least eight times. Conversely, McCain said that Obama didn’t “understand” at least seven times.
10:43: MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan claims McCain was the winner because “he came off as tough but almost as mean…Obama came across as a very nice guy.”
10:42: ABC’s Charlie Gibson and PBS’s David Brooks and Marks Shields note that McCain never looked at Obama during the debate.
10:27: Sen. Obama is the first to mention climate change, which Thomas Fingar, the top intelligence analyst in the United States, has warned will be the central foreign security threat “for the next administration and beyond.”
10:26: McCain referred to offshore drilling as a “bridge” technique that would lower prices “in the short run.” In fact, the Bush administration’s own Energy Department has concluded that it could have no significant impact before 2030.
10:25: McCain has correctly identified the resurgence in Russian military power as driven by increased oil wealth, but his record has shown consistent opposition to the alternative energy initiatives that might undercut this aspect of Putin’s strength.
10:20: McCain mocks the idea that Kissinger supports talks with Iran without preconditions. Just yesterday, CBS News’s Katie Couric — after interviewing Sarah Palin, who called the idea of meeting without preconditions “naïve” — checked with Kissinger. Couric: “Incidentally, we confirmed Henry Kissinger’s position following her interview. He told us he supports talks, if not with Ahmadinejad, then with high level Iranian officials . . . without preconditions.”
10:17: McCain takes the view that to meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be to legitimize Ahmadinejad’s views on Israel. Does that mean that McCain’s meetings with Nouri al-Maliki constitute an endorsement of his various anti-Israel views?
10:10: Discussing ways he would save money in the federal budget, McCain said, “Look, we’re sending $700 billion a year overseas to countries that don’t like us very much.” But as the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler points out, McCain is confusing foreign aid with the amount of money that Americans spend on foreign oil. The U.S. spends only $39 bllion a year in foreign aid.
10:09: McCain just restated his intention to form a “League of Democracies.” He mentioned Germany and France as potential partners. Would he allow Spain to join, after refusing to meet with the Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero as President? (Update: League of Democracies? It’s a “hidden agenda” to “kill the UN.”)
10:02: McCain’s view that Pakistan was a “failed state” when Pervez Musharraf launched his coup in 1999 is bizarre. Pakistan had a functioning government led by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif attempted to fire Musharraf as head of the Pakistani military and replace him with ISI Director Ziauddin Butt. Instead, Musharraf launched a coup, citing allegations of corruption against Sharif. Nobody on either side took the view that Pakistan was a failed state.
10:00: McCain just said that President Reagan is the person he admires the most. However, in the past, he has claimed that his “major role model” was President Teddy Roosevelt.
9:58: Having recently said any timeline is good for withdrawal from Iraq, McCain again railed against setting a timeline, despite the fact that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki endorsedultimately agreed with President Bush to withdrawal all troops from Iraq in 2011. Obama’s plan and
9:57: McCain insists “You don’t say…out loud” that you’re going to strike inside Pakistan. Singing “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” presumably still ok, in McCain’s view.
9:54: McCain says that “increased Iranian influence” would have been one of the consequence of defeat in Iraq. What does he think the consequences of invading Iraq have been? The current Iraqi government is controlled by political parties that were literally founded in Iran.
9:52: McCain did question whether the surge would succeed. In January 2007, he said, “I am concerned about it, whether it is sufficient numbers or not.” (Update: More McCain surge doubts — “I am very nervous about this new strategy. I am very doubtful that we have enough troops. I don’t know if the Maliki government will be strong enough.”)
9:51: Obama noted that McCain said before the Iraq war that U.S. soldiers would be greeted as liberators. In July this year, McCain claimed “We were greeted as liberators.”
9:50: McCain keeps talking about the need for “victory” in Iraq, but General Petraeus himself has disavowed that goal, “This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade… it’s not war with a simple slogan.”
9:45: McCain warned that — absent the surge — we might have seen “increased sectarian violence.” In fact, the most up-to-date research indicates that one of the leading causes of the recent decline in violence is that the surge was followed by large-scale ethnic cleansing, and violence only dropped in Baghdad once mixed neighborhoods had largely been eliminated.
9:44: McCain has already used the joke that he wasn’t “elected Miss Congeniality in the Senate” twice during this debate. Ironically, Sarah Palin was Miss Congeniality.
9:41: McCain claimed to have opposed Bush on climate change, torture, and Guantanamo Bay. In fact, McCain allowed his party’s platform to question the science of climate change, and he voted to allow the CIA to continue waterboarding.
9:40: More on McCain’s discretionary freeze: A generous estimate of the savings from the freeze would be $50 billion. This leaves McCain with a budget hole of about $650 billion.
9:38: McCain said “We’re sending $700 billion a year overseas to countries that don’t like us very much” How about we’re sending $10 billion a month to a country, Iraq, whose people want our military to withdraw.
9:37: John McCain’s proposal for an across-the-board spending freeze in discretionary spending would entail large per capita cuts in everything from education to the FBI and federal prisons to national parks, highway and bridge repair, food stamps, etc. Along with having a deleterious impact on people who rely on these programs, the cuts would cause a contractionary impact on economic growth at a time when the country is in need of a second stimulus to forestall the risk of a deep recession.
9:37: The Wonk Room dissects John McCain’s promotion of his “45 nuclear plants by 2030” as a job creation boon.
9:34: 34 minutes in and no questions about foreign policy in this foreign policy debate. (Update: First foreign policy question comes 39 minutes in)
9:32: McCain said unequivocally that he is against ethanol subsidies. But in 2006, he said “I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects.”
9:30: McCain commits a fashion faux pas. The effect of his red and white striped tie produces a wavy, strobing effect on regular televisions, one of the first tips media trainers tell men to avoid. It looks better in HD.
9:29: In his list of wasteful earmarks, McCain made no mention of the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, which his running mate supported.
9:26: McCain declares that there’s “a lot more than $18 billion” in earmark spending. Perhaps he’s returning to his unsubstantiated claim to be able to cut “$65 billion” in earmarks “that’s already on the books.” That figure included aid to Israel, which McCain later said he would not cut.
9:25: While the United States does have the second highest corporate rate in the world on paper, the effective tax rate is in line with the rest of the world’s leading economies. Further, two-thirds of American corporations pay no taxes.
9:21: McCain rails against wasteful earmark spending, but as Sen. Claire McCaskill pointed out, his running mate Palin “has been an earmark queen in Alaska.”
9:18: McCain rightly points out that American workers are more productive than ever. Since November 2001, employee productivity has risen more than 15 percent. However, “the average wage for the typical American worker has inched up just 1 percent (after inflation). … [S]ome economists say this may be the first time in American history that the typical working household goes through an economic expansion without any increase in income whatsoever.”
9:17: McCain mocked an earmark to study bear DNA, but his own running mate, Sarah Palin, has requested money to study seal DNA.
9:14: McCain said he’d warned about the problems in the financial markets, repeating something he’s said several times since the extent of the problem became clear, but ignoring his previous acknowledgment that he “did not” anticipate the crisis.
9:11: When McCain refers to “the greatest fiscal crisis of our time,” he’s probably hoping nobody thinks back to the second-greatest fiscal crisis of our time — the Savings & Loan fiasco and the Keating Five imbroglio in which he was implicated but which the media has graciously declined to bring up throughout the duration of the campaign.
9:09: Flashback: Karl Rove attacked Obama for not wearing a flag on his lapel, claiming that “to a lot of ordinary people, putting that flag lapel pin on is true patriotism.”
9:08: Just off the bat, this is the first-ever general election debate to be broadcast in high definition. Most of the public will be watching in low-def, of course, but we won’t be the only ones watching in HD. And given the age/wrinkle gap between the two candidates, we think you might see something of a Kennedy-Nixon effect where your impression of the matchup will be determined in part by your technical platform.
9:02: Barack Obama enters, wearing a flag pin on his lapel. John McCain has no flag on his lapel.