Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Presidential Debate

Did you know that this is the first presidential race since 1952 that neither candidate has held the office of president or vice-president? This may be why many voters still have big questions concerning John McCain and Barack Obama, according to Dr. Benoit, a communications professor I talked with on Thursday.

If you watched the debate last night, you may agree or disagree with some of the things being said by viewers and/or analysts:
--The candidates did a poor job of answering questions about the economy. They were vague and made comments that were politically safe.
What I have to say is, what did you expect? Neither candidate is going to say something provocative about the economy when so much is still uncertain. And economic policy cannot be distilled into a 2 minute answer, no matter how pithy or witty you are.

--Both campaigns can claim their candidate won because they played to their constituents and avoided making any major gaffs.
I think this is true. Whether any undecided voters felt the lights turn on after that debate I don't know, but both candidates seemed to play their part well, especially on foreign policy. McCain insisted that Obama had to accept that he was wrong about the surge of troops in Iraq and is wrong about how to win the war. Obama insisted that McCain has to stop thinking only about Iraq.

--McCain effectively pinned the label of "inexperienced" on Obama by consistently using the phrase "he doesn't understand" or something like it, and using examples of his experience in foreign policy and his travels around the world.
Well, maybe. Some might believe that this plan of attack did answer the big question of "Is Obama too inexperienced?" with a big fat YES. But others may not be inclined to lean towards McCain on this point, given what I'm about to say next...

--McCain seemed squirrely, unable to look at Obama or talk to him directly, and he seemed irritated and uncomfortable, while Obama talked directly to McCain, and seemed composed and presidential.
I'm inclined to agree with this assesment, political partisanship aside. There were several moments when McCain clearly looked uncomfortable. I don't know for what reason, but I generally thought Obama looked more composed. And looks can go a long long way in a presidential debate.

If you want to read more about expectations of this debate and a little history on presidential debates, check out my latest story: MU Professors Weigh in on Debate.

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