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?