A draw, but Obama wins


When one evaluates a debate among candidates for high office, a number of criteria must be established. The first has to do with the actual conduct of the debate — whether there was a decided advantage for one or the other on content and/or style, or whether a defining phrase clearly favoured one over the other. In other words, was there a knockout blow?

The second criterion has to do with expectations, which is why so many handlers tend to lower them for their candidates. Was the acknowledged better debater up to form? Did he underperform? Did he manage to surpass expectations?

The final criteria is about meeting goals, like improving his standing with needed voter blocs, reducing negative perceptions about his candidacy, or enhancing his stature and position with the voter.

No knockout blows were delivered in this debate, and there were no wide discrepancies on content and style. As expected, McCain showed great knowledge on foreign policy matters, but Obama held his own and was able to demonstrate a level of poise and aplomb that usually comes from many more years of experience.

As for expectations, both candidates performed better than I have seen them perform since the beginning of the primary season. Obama was less cerebral and more precise than usual, while McCain appeared more at ease in a forum that wasn’t expected to favour him. Though the candidates stayed close to their script, they did provide an at times entertaining and spirited exchange.

The real difference occurred with respect to goals. McCain needed a game changer to stall Obama’s momentum. He needed to demonstrate to voters that he is the better choice by outclassing his opponent in knowledge and stature, especially with respect to foreign policy and national security. He did not get it done.

Obama, on the other hand, needed to look presidential, avoid appearing risky, and establish a comfort level with voters. This is the only way he will be able to eliminate the lingering doubts about his candidacy. In this regard, I believe he had a good night.

For many observers who listened and watched the debate, it may have appreared like a draw. And, at least on the surface, I would agree. But with recent trends favouring the Democratic challenger, a draw means Obama won the night.


A draw, but Obama wins

  1. I still don’t understand why you get a blog on this site John. Because you are pro Obama nothing you write displays even the slightest signs of objectivity. Maclean’s to my knowledge does not have space for Canadian political blogs in their site, so I don’t understand why they allow an American one. I suppose if there was a Republican blog on here it would provide some balance but instead it provides very skewed coverage of the U.S. Presidential Election.

  2. The nature of Canadians in general puts most of us as Pro Obama anyway. I don’t know one person who’s Pro McCain. And it doesn’t matter anyway as we don’t vote in the U.S. election anyway.

  3. “I don’t know one person who’s Pro McCain.”

    Wait, let me guess, you live in TO.

  4. John Parisella

    I am kinda worried because I actually agree with most of what you wrote today. I have canceled all my plans for the next couple of days and won’t be leaving my home. Suggest you do the same. :)

    J McKinell

    “I don’t know one person who’s Pro McCain.”

    Your comment reminds me of Pauline Kael and what she thought of people voting for Nixon.

  5. Obama may have done himself real damage over the Ahmadinejad exchange – when he let McCain get laughs by leaving the impression he was ready to sit down with this guy. That was a big mistake that could have consequences. And it’s a shame, because, heading into this exchange, McCain gave the same nervous, ashamed sideways glance toward Obama that he gave each time he started lying or misrepresenting something. Then Obama screwed up and implied he would sit down with Ahmadinejad…


  6. There is no question that McCain showed himself to be the more in command in all areas of the debate. He prefaced most of his statements towards Obama with “he just doesn’t get it” and thus created a great deal of discomfort for Obama. I feel Obama projected a child-like “I can too” performance. The ever-more knowledgable and experienced McCain continued to espouse historic fact together with much needed foresight both diplomatically and strategically to deal with countries such as Russian in relation to Georgia and its oil.
    I believe this came as news to Obama as other things will as well. Ask yourself, if you want the experienced pilot on your passenger jet, or the one who offers only an enticing demeanor?

  7. “Ask yourself, if you want the experienced pilot on your passenger jet”

    No, lets ask McCain instead!

    “There were occasional setbacks in my efforts to round out my Navy profile. My reputation was certainly not enhanced when I knocked down some power lines while flying too low over southern Spain. My daredevil clowning had cut off electricity to a great many Spanish homes and created a small international incident.”
    – John McCain
    Faith of My Fathers
    (p. 159)

  8. point, set and match to Blues C.

  9. CNN polling indicates that vieers thought Obama won the debate, 51-38.

    Maybe war hero McCain can call another timeout? After all, it’s really not fair to continue the fight when he’s losing so badly.

  10. “There is no question that McCain showed himself to be the more in command in all areas of the debate.”

    I am not a McCain supporter, but I think Sandra Keller Gibbs is right. I also think there is a political marketing angle which is more important from a voters perspective than has to be considered. We will know when the post debate polls come out as to who, if anyone, won the debate.


  11. I have to agree with John. Though Obama’s performance was far from flawless, McCain needed to deliver the knock-out blow. As he clearly didn’t, Obama wins by default. To be honest, I was worried about Obama and felt McCain would be the better debater. And though he delivered a good performance, he didn’t succeed in outclassing Obama. I doubt this debate hurts Barack, which is exactly what McCain was supposed to do to stall his momentum.

    JWl agrees? What the heck?

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