Liveblogging The Obama-McCain Debate

Ken AshfordElection 20081 Comment

8:50 pm  Going to watch on MSNBC, I think

9:00 pm  McCain shook Obama's hand.

9:02 pm  I must say, I don't like it when Obama goes "aaaaaand".

9:04 pm  McCain thinks economic crisis can be solved by energy independence.  No.  That fixes a different problem.  That said, I think McCain answered the first question better.

9:07 pm  Meg Whitman – Ms. Ebay – for Treasury Secretary?  Seriously?

9:09 pm  Answer the question, Barry.

9:10 pm  "Senator Obama and his cronies"?  McCain doesn't realize that Fannie and Freddie Mac were not the catalysts that startefd this economic problem.

9:14 pm  I like this format in that looking at the camera and speaking directly to the American people isn't even an option.

9:16 pm  Hmmmm.  Some cross-section of America this audience is.  They're all bald.

9:21 pm $3 million for an overhead projector for a planetarium in Chicago?  I call "bullshit" on that.  I guess we'll find out from Factcheck.

9:25 pm  I like Obama's JFK/moon reference.

9:36 pm  McCain is just LYING about taxes. Obama is NOT going to raise taxes except on the uber-wealthy!

9:40 pm  The instapoll track lines of uncommitted Ohio voters really don't like McCain.  Even the rightwing pundits like Gergen are liking Obama more (or hating him less).

9:43 pm  McCain is kind of rambling.

9:47 pm Obama won the green question.  McCain apparently can't see all the red and green lights, so he wants Brokaw to wave.

9:55 pm  Boy, McCain's health care sucks.  Obama's rebuttal was good.  It's very hard for Obama to put his plans forward when he has to undo what McCain says first.

10:01 pm  Haha.  Obama: "yeah, I don't understand.  I don't understand why we went into Iraq".  Nice.

10:06 pm  Okay, if he says "my friends" one more time…..

10:08 pm  Cosovo.  We went in as peacemakers and ended up as peacekeepers?  Is there, strictly speaking, a difference?  Wow, is McCain rambling.  I guess that's the McCain doctrine: address genocide, but only if we can win.

10:12 pm  If I understand McCain correctly, he won't attack bin Laden in Pakistan. 

10:14 pm  Obama brings up "Bomb bomb bomb Iran". Nice.  McCain says he was joking with a veteran.  Uh, I don't think so.  Wasn't it in front of a group?

10:18 pm  This whole Afghan foreign policy exchange is enlightening.  I think Obama is killing McCain here.  McCain suggests the surge in Afghanistan.  Funny, the NATO commander and (I believe) even Petraeus says the "surge" won't work there.

10:22 pm  On the other hand, I don't think Obama is doing well on the Georgia/Russia question.

10:26 pm  Oh, lord.  Another talk about "preconditions" for negotiating with Iran.  I hate this.

10:30 pm  Amherst, NH asks a zen-like question.  I'm not sure Obama is answering the question, but then again, I'm not sure the question is answerable.  "What don't you know?"  McCain answers, in effect, that he doesn't know what he can't anticipate.  Well, yeah.

One things that strikes me about this, is thinking about Palin and how much she is a lightweight compared to even McCain.

10:34 pm It's over.  Well, they both did well, but I think Obama won.  McCain seemed doddering at times.

10:45 pm  The policy wonks at CNN seem to think Obama won.  Even partisan ones like Bill Bennett (who thought McCain was "fine" but didn't do enough).

UPDATE:  Well, some factchecks are coming out. From Politifact:

McCain said that 13 million people "make a living off eBay".  That's way off. We hate to nitpick apparent misstatements, but this one's a doozy — 1.3-million is the number of peopleworldwide who make some money off eBay, according to a 2006 A.C. Nielsen study

As of 2003, some 20,000 Americans made their living off eBay, company executive Jim Griffith told a Colorado newspaper at the time.


McCain's reference to Obama as "that one" rubbed some people the wrong way.  It didn't bother me that much.


Anyone watching CNN on a hi-def TV could see the dial focus group of a bunch of Ohio undecided voters. And throughout the night, it often seemed that Obama would break the darn meter, his ratings going through the roof. McCain, on the other hand, was the king of the flatline. I swear, you could see the downticks every time McCain said "my friends" — a tell to the audience that he was about to serve another heaping dish of b.s. It was painful.


I thought that Barack Obama won the “visuals” of tonight’s debate. He looked younger and more vigorous, of course, but, in addition, John McCain did too much moving around. He seemed focused on addressing a “town hall,” as he has done so well over the years. But in reality, as Obama seemed quicker to appreciate, the audience tonight was in the television land. To them, McCain’s movement must have seemed a bit aimless.

On substance, I thought the debate was fairly even. McCain came across better on economic issues than he has in the past, but still struggled at times for the fluency (or perhaps glibness) with which Obama is able to address these matters. In any event, I suspect that, whatever the quality of McCain's debate performance, he’s going to take the fall for the economy.

Obama was pretty much gaffe-free (though not lie-free). He was a little arrogant at times, including in his obvious disregard for the rules of the debate, but not to the point where it’s likely to cost him in this environment.

A win on the visuals and at least a draw on substance (if that’s a fair assessment) is a win for Obama at this point. So tonight he moves a little closer to the presidency. I continue to believe that voters will subject him to one more round of serious scrutiny when the debates are over. Tonight’s performance marginally enhances his chance of surviving that scrutiny, which was already pretty good.

And from the rightwing The Corner, Andy McCarthy speaks to his colleagues:

Memo to McCain Campaign:  Someone is either a terrorist sympathizer or he isn't; someone is either disqualified as a terrorist sympathizer or he's qualified for public office.  You helped portray Obama as a clealy qualified presidential candidate who would fight terrorists. If that's what the public thinks, good luck trying to win this thing. With due respect, I think tonight was a disaster for our side.  I'm dumbfounded that no one else seems to think so.  Obama did everything he needed to do, McCain did nothing he needed to do.  What am I missing?

Yeah.  If they think Obama won, it's over.


McCain rolled out a new proposal at the beginning — for the government to buy out people's failing mortgages and refinance them at the current price.  Hmmmm.  Sounds expensive.  One wonders how that would work exactly.  And how does that mesh with the whole Palin (and somewhat McCain) theme that government needs to get out of the way?


Thatone A win for Obama according to CBS’ pollsters: Obama 39%, McCain 27%, Tie 35%.

In retrospect, it was interesting that the Democrat in this debate was the first to bring up 9/11, the Holocaust, and getting bin Laden.

….and with that, I'm off to bed.


NEXT MORNING UPDATE:  Reactions from all over….

Andrew Sullivan: "This was, I think, a mauling: a devastating and possibly electorally fatal debate for McCain… I've watched a lot of debates and participated in many. I love debate and was trained as a boy in the British system to be a debater. I debated dozens of times at Oxofrd. All I can say is that, simply on terms of substance, clarity, empathy, style and authority, this has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out. It has been about as big a wipe-out as I can remember in a presidential debate. It reminds me of the 1992 Clinton-Perot-Bush debate. I don't really see how the McCain campaign survives this."

Ezra Klein: "Tonight was supposed to be John McCain's night, but it was the first clear debate win Obama has scored over the course of this campaign — including the primary. McCain, as it turned out, was badly disadvantaged by the format. This debate was more physical than previous encounters. And McCain, for reasons of age and injuries and height, has a less commanding physical presence than Obama."

Mark Halperin: "McCain spent much of the evening trying to define Obama on his terms, but never broke all the way through."

Marc Ambinder: "CW says that John McCain had a 90 minute window to turn his campaign around – to put into play the McCain Resurgence Strategy, if you will, and if that's the CW threshold, I don't think McCain met it


As for me, I note the absence of any Ayres or Wright-related attacks on Obama from McCain.  And here's the problem if they try to raise that stuff now: Obama really didn't come off last night as a terrorist-loving radical.  To try and paint him as some kind of nut job now will just make the McCain camp look desparate.