Notes on the Second Presidential Debate Between Obama and McCain

I don’t like the smear campaign John McCain has decided to run in the last weeks of the election, so I found myself a bit irked with him going into last night’s debate.  (If things were turned around and Barack Obama had been the first to resort to smears, I would probably drop my support for him and vote third party — which indicates how strongly I believe starting a smear campaign reflects poorly on a candidate’s character and qualifications.)  So, McCain didn’t have a chance with me last night.  Nevertheless, he did make one proposal I liked.

I don’t know what McCain would do to pay for it, but I liked his idea of buying up old folks mortgages and then refinancing them at rates the people can afford to pay in order to keep old folks in their homes.  If McCain would only come up with more ideas like that one — and show us how he’s going to pay for them — he could run on the issues, rather than run a Karl Rovian smear campaign.  Maybe he’d still loose.  But maybe he’d win.  And at least he’d be doing his civic duty to give the American people a real choice in November.

The only other thing I greatly liked about McCain’s performance last night was he didn’t indulge himself — as he and Sarah Palin have while campaigning these last few days — in flinging feces at Obama as if he (McCain) were some kind of chimpanzee rather than a presidential candidate.  McCain was on the offensive, but he didn’t stoop to flinging crap about Ayers or Wright, etc.  Consequently, he didn’t look nearly as desperate, needy and panicked as he has to me on the campaign trail these past few days.

The thing that makes me most proud of this election is the American people.  By and large, we Americans seem to understand the importance of this election and we are locked on and tracking it in large numbers.

Obama impressed me as authentic, knowledgable, even-tempered, and in touch with the people last night.  In deciding who to vote for, I go with what I know and my gut response to it.  That is, I gather as much information as I can, analyse it, and then figure out what my gut has decided.  I do that over and over until the day comes when I actually vote.  Right now, my gut is for Obama.  That might change between now and my vote, but I don’t know of any other way to do it that leaves me as happy with my final decision.  In the past, when I’ve made purely intellectual decisions, I’ve lived to regret them.  Likewise, when I’ve made purely gut decisions, I’ve lived to regret some of them too.  But this mix of head and gut seems to work for me.

As usual, the CBS/Knowledge Networks poll (.pdf) came out shortly after the debate.  According to the poll, 40 percent of uncommitted voters watching the debate believed Obama won.  That’s compared to 26 percent who thought McCain won, and another 34 percent who thought it was a tie.  The margin of error was 4 percentage points, so there is no statistically significant difference between the size of the group that thought Obama won and the size of the group that thought the debate was a tie.  However, there is a statistically significant difference between those two groups and the size of the smaller group that thought McCain won.

When asked who would make the right decisions about the economy, Obama made statistically significant gains among the uncommitted voters during the debate, but McCain didn’t.  For all practical purposes, the same percentage of people thought McCain would make the right economic decisions before the debate as after it.

When the voters were asked who would make the right decisions about the war in Iraq, neither Obama nor McCain picked up statistically significant support during the debate.  That means the debate did little to help Obama close the gap between himself and McCain on that question.

Yet, when the uncommitted voters were asked who understood their needs and problems, Obama’s support lept 21 percentage points, while McCain’s went up a mere 11 percentage points.  Obama was already ahead on that question, but he widened his lead last night.

Overall, the debate moved as many people into one camp as it did into the other.  Fifteen percent committed to Obama, 12 percent committed to McCain (a statistically insignificant difference), and 72 percent remained uncommitted.

Some of us complain about these polls, but I find the scientific ones infinitely more valuable than the frequently biased guesses of our nation’s pundits.  If you were laying money on it, it would be foolish to bet that a spin-puppy knows more about what people are thinking than a good poll reveals.

Well, those are my thoughts this morning on the debate.  Now I’m curious how you saw it?

16 thoughts on “Notes on the Second Presidential Debate Between Obama and McCain

  1. was it just me or mccain didn’t shake hands with obama, and he kept pacing when obama was speaking? I really didn’t like that part. However I think overall, each candidate made good points (agree with you on the American Homeownership Resurgence Plan). Great writing btw.

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  2. Hi Ven! Welcome to the blog!

    I thought I noticed McCain refusing to shake hands with Obama at the end of the debate, too.

    Thanks for your kind words about the writing.

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  3. McCain is an imbecile with nothing substantial to say. He’ll lose the election and that will restore my faith in a country that has so dissapointed me in the last couple of years. Obama represents a shift in paradigm and we will see the U.S. move forward to a new more complex world. VOTE OBAMA 2008

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  4. McCant is so obnoxious.

    And um…if he is elected (god forbid) we can all kiss our health care goodbye. Without the correct tax incentives our employers have no motivation to provide employees such coverage. Thus, we will all be on our own with his lousy 5,000 to buy our OWN health care.

    Yeah. Um, does he even know how much it costs to buy health insurance for a family? Of course he doesn’t. He doesn’t even know how many houses he has.

    *shudder* and *gag*

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  5. @ Hernando: Welcome to the blog! I recall McCain graduated fifth from the bottom of his class of 800 or so. Yet, I don’t think he’s an imbecile. Just not very smart, but superstitious and plainly erratic. Like you, I think this country will move forward with Obama.

    @ Meleah: Spot on! Employers are already hard pressed to pay for their share of health care benefits. They will dump those benefits like toxic waste if McCain raises the cost of them. Excellent comment!

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  6. It has come to this. Obama is showing what we need in a president in this historical time in the world. Leadership and the ability to be the pack-leader. Republicans are finally going to their dispecable proven-and-failed Karl Rove tactics. Attack, attack, attack, and make up some more lies, that is irrelevant to the voters.

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  7. Welcome to the blog, Doc! Good post! I agree the Republican tactics are irrelevant to many — perhaps even most — of the voters. Of course, they will be relevant to some voters, for there are in this world born fools as well as less permanently confused people. My hunch, however, is that this year most people will have the clarity of insight to see beyond the nonsensical attacks to the issues that really make a difference to their quality of life.

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  8. I deeply question the motives of Obama pertaining to his “love of country”. We have the best country in the world with people eagerly clamoring to come here and become citizens. Our democracy and free market capitalism is the envy of the world. Unless, of course, a person has socialistic preferences. In looking at the deep connection between Obama and terrorist Bill Ayers (especially via the fact that Obama served on Ayers board at the CAC and distributed nearly $100 million through that organization – to groups such as ACORN – for the stated purpose of radicalizing children…to reteach American history with racist and imperialist overtones), and his understudy exposure to Alinski’s marxist views, along with a 20 year association with the outspkoen and anti-American Rev. Wright…I am convinced that Obama is a puppet, a soldier of socialism, hellbent on changing not simply the way Washington works, but instead, the form of American governance. His short career in politics contains gaps and unanswered questions – information which America is entitled to know about. In the end, I am confident that John McCain, a man of integrity with a proven track record of experience, will win and serve the U.S. admirably as our next President.

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  9. Hi Politixican! Welcome to the blog! I’m unsure what your lecture has to do with the post topic — which is on last night’s debate. Moreover, I disagree with much of what you’ve said and believe you would have difficulty substantiating it. Nevertheless, thank you for taking the time to comment!

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  10. Just when I thought that we had finally moved beyond the Ayers smear campaign (except for Palin, of course, but most people don’t take her seriously), Mr. Politixican appears on this blog and belies my faith in the American people. I still find it amusing that people use the words “integrity” and “McCain” in the same sentence. That might have been the case in the 2000 election, but his approval, direct or tacit, of this ongoing smear campaign being waged by Palin and others demonstrates to me that McCain is no longer a person of integrity. He appears to me to be a person who’s desperate. But that’s just my opinion.

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  11. Hi Diane! I find myself in agreement with you regarding John McCain’s integrity. I think one would need to be out of touch with what’s been happening in this race to insist McCain has any integrity left.

    I also agree with you on Palin: The polls now seem to be showing that only the evangelical side of the Republican base still takes her seriously. I think most people find her interesting, but not presidential.

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  12. If McCain gets elected, its Bush al over again. More people in poverty, thousands more soldiers killed, maimed, and wonded horribly, and of course more billions of dollars in debt. How great.

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  13. By the way, the way Sarah Palin is acting, especially towards Obama, it is clear she is NOT a good choice for vice president. McCain needs someone much smarter.

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  14. Hi John! Welcome to the blog!

    I’m in strong agreement with your assessment of what a McCain presidency would entail. Additionally, I don’t think McCain knows nearly enough about the economy to lead us out of this crisis.

    As for Palin, it was irresponsible of McCain to pick her as his running mate, in my opinion.

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  15. My husband is a doctor, and thinks the best thing that could happen is if the federal government took over the insurance companies. He knows how truly corrupt they are, because he deals with them all the time. This $5000 toward medical insurance McCain advocates would be taxed, folks. Can you imagine? I truly do not understand people’s total disdain for “socialism.” Do they not realize they aren’t in control now? How do they like it when their medical insurance company tells them they can’t have that life-saving procedure? Or their pre-existing condition will keep them from coverage? Some people can’t see the forest for the trees, I’m afraid.
    Brenda

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