So we had a night of “Joe The Plumber,” challenges on who was friends with who, and an avoidance of issues by McCain every time Obama tried to cover them.
Browsing the web for results this morning, while listening to “Morning Joe” on MSNBC (where Mika and Joe are almost at each other’s throats), I’m seeing a lot of the things I put in my own notes last night come up again.
Joan Walsh in Salon said:
McCain was a little bit less grumpy than in earlier matchups. He never once called Obama “that one,” and he even made eye contact with him more than once. But he couldn’t control his sarcasm. His worst move was ridiculing Obama’s support for abortion rights measures that protect “the health of the mother.” He sneered out the words, “health of the mother,” and actually framed them in air quotes. His standing with women was already plummeting; watch it drop more from here.
And looking at the followup polls, the drop was evident:
McCain needed a big win, and I haven’t heard anyone yet who thought he got it. CNN poll: Obama 58, McCain 31.
And from HuffPo: The
polling showed people leaving the affair with a more unfavorable opinion of the Republican nominee. Here were Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg’s findings.
Before the debate: McCain: 54 favorable / 34 unfavorable, Obama: 42 favorable / 42 unfavorable.
After the debate: McCain: 50 favorable / 48 unfavorable, Obama: 72 favorable / 22 unfavorable
A lot of this has to do with the control and style, those things that make someone seem “Presidential”, that the two candidates showed during the debate.
Joan Walsh again:
As usual Obama was calm, measured, reassuring. I loved their exchange over Obama’s reservations about a free-trade agreement with Colombia, the importance of which McCain insisted Obama didn’t really understand. “Actually, I understand it pretty well,” Obama replied. “Labor leaders have been targeted for assassination. We have to stand for human rights and make sure violence isn’t being perpetrated against workers who are organizing for their rights.” Imagine a president who can think that well on his feet, and who’ll stand up for workers’ rights.
And, related to the comment above on Colombia and its labor leaders in this example, we have what I found to be the most remarkable elements of McCain’s performance. The video is at my blog site.
CNN, with its split screen, showed McCain’s eye-rolling and other facial expressions (plus lots of mumbled comments during Obama’s speaking times) and worked to his disadvantage. To quote MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow from her live-blog commentary: “McCain grimacing and rolling his eyes and playing eyebrow-hockey is probably going to be a regret for him by the end of the night.”
McCain’s facial expressions convey a lack of calm that everyone from average voters to seasoned political observers say is a damaging trait for a presidential candidate in the midst of an economic crisis… and it made me think about a year in the future.
Imagine our new President in direct and important negotiations with Vladimir Putin, say, over nuclear missile control. Can you imagine a grimacing and eye-rolling American leader as Putin’s translator conveys points that McCain disagrees with? Boy, I can. I can also imagine the control and reserve that a President Obama would have in the same circumstance.
Now who would I want to be President in such a situation?