So how does one figure out who won? Well, from what I can tell, most of the pundits are declaring this a tie with Obama having the upper hand since he was the frontrunner and McCain needed to knock him off his seat. He did not. That means Obama didn’t lose ground. That means McCain didn’t get any closer to being the frontrunner. Obama has the wind at his back. McCain has a small breeze. But the winds can change in the blink of an eye. And if we learned anything from the last election, no matter how crazy something might seem, no matter how absurd, there are still a large percentage of Americans who will embrace it. Even fight for it.
Pardon me while I digress for a moment. I was listening to THIS AMERICAN LIFE the other day and host Ira Glass was talking with two guys who spend part of each day running elaborate cons on internet scammers. You know, the guys who email you and tell you their inheritance is tied up somewhere and they need your help (by way of financial support) to get their money and for your good deed you will get a substantial percentage? Well, these two guys scam those guys. One of the most fascinating questions that came up was why these internet scammers don’t eventually recognize when they themselves are being scammed. As one of the men who cons scammers suggests:
They don’t really have an option BUT to believe. It’s the same mentality that some of these victims have. They’ve spent so much, they’ve gone this far, that they can’t really turn back at this point.
Ira Glass then comments on postings he’d read about “victim mentality”:
Once you’ve given up some money or some time, to actually believe that it’s a scam, it’s just too horrible to think about, and it’s just easier to think, “Oh, this is gonna work out.”
Strangely enough, I think this same “victim mentality” is at play in this election. The past eight years have been an American disaster story culminating in the current financial crises we now face, the two wars we are heavily invested in and the strong anti-American sentiment that is rising daily across the globe. But people are still ready to latch on to a presidential candidate who is supported by the same people and ideologies that gave us the Bush Administration, who has voted with Bush 90% of the time, and who has selected the single most inexperienced running mate in history who isn’t even prepared to do a talk show, no less help run the country (or, god forbid, be its president). And yet almost half the country still supports them, thinks they’re wonderful and will happily vote for them. Even though those same voter’s livelihoods, health, homes and loved ones may be endangered.
So, back to the debate. I would love to have seen Obama sweep the floor with McCain, but McCain is a practiced debater. He’s not George W. and he’s not Dan Quayle. He can talk the talk and sound like he knows his stuff. Especially to those not very familiar with the issues or the ins and outs of politics. It’s gonna be hard, even amidst the disaster that is our current government, to convince those that want to believe McCain, to jump ship and support Obama.
But IF Obama can maintain his lead in the polls, IF he can continue to show himself as a man at LEAST as presidential as McCain, then he might just win this race. But either way, barring any unforeseen events, this race is gonna be close.
I think 64th United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright summed it up perfectly:
Tonight was a breakthrough for Senator Obama, who showed himself truly ready to be president. He responded knowledgeably, thoughtfully and confidently to the toughest questions on the economy, Iraq, and terror. Meanwhile, Senator McCain spent so much time attacking his opponent, he neglected to show how a McCain-Palin administration would differ from Bush-Cheney. As a result, Obama answered the threshold question about his candidacy; McCain did not.
Add to that two focus groups, one by GOP pollster Frank Luntz and another by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, both declared Obama the winner. Here’s video of Luntz:
According to Ben Smith at Politico:
The mild consensus in the press file was that McCain won, if not in particularly dramatic fashion. The two insta-polls out — from CBS and CNN — found the opposite: That Obama won by a wide margin. CBS had it 39% to 25% for Obama, CNN 51% to 38%.
In addition, Independents in the MediaCurves focus group gave the debate to Obama 61-39. They also think he won every individual segment.
Time‘s Mark Halperin’s breakdown: Obama A-, McCain B-.
It seems that both candidates made some factual errors during the debate, but Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers stated that “McCain made the most notable misstatements,” and then proceeded to list them.
Obama spokeman, Bill Burton, points out these little facts of interest:
Number of times John McCain mentioned:
CHANGE: 1 time
MIDDLE CLASS: not once
After Barack Obama and John McCain stop talking on the debate stage Friday night, their surrogates will start spinning. But one high-profile supporter of Mr. McCain will be missing: his running mate Sarah Palin.
Spinning on behalf of the Democrats on Friday night will be Joe Biden, Mr. Obama’s running mate. He is expected to appear live on NBC, CBS, and CNN immediately following the debate.
And so Joe Biden did:
Sarah Palin, however, was nowhere to be seen. And her absence speaks volumes.
So I’ll leave you now with clips of two of my favorite moments from tonight’s debate. Enjoy: