In a debate questioned from different strategic and political views across the aisle, tonight was with no question the best and most interesting debate we have seen. And in the end, I think the debate ended close, which ultimately is a McCain loss from a strategic standpoint. 

But in what may have ended that way it has didn’t come off the bat as a victory or tie in any means for Obama, who came off, in my opinion, too conservative and defensive as far as his personality. However, as soon as the most vital question strategically came forward, McCain figuratively drove off the track.

The topic of Bill Ayers and negative campaigning permanently turned the debate personal, which let Obama immediately capitalize and climb back in the debate, ultimately ending in a draw. 

But what I found most interesting from this debate was that John McCain was seemingly derailed from a single soundbite and rather attacked in a much more frequent and less crowd pleasing manner. 

 And I think that the pundits and press respectively with  point this out. But I think that McCain’s strategy will  essentially turn out to be more long term than short as far  as the election. 

 As I have stressed for the last few days, McCain came into  the debate with more of a burden on his shoulders to capitalize and pull off a game changing attack, and he came out without accomplishing this. And I think that this essentially ends up as a loss for McCain despite the close performance that he put forward against Obama. 

Why? McCain didn’t talk about the voter, rather either attacking Obama or discussing what he would do differently than Bush and Obama when elected. In fact, the only time McCain talked about the voter was in the topic of his running mate’s policy of special needs children, especially autism. But if I may point out — in fact McCain is contradicting — Palin cut the Alaskan special olympics in half. 

What is my point? In the end, McCain essentially tied, won or lost against Obama in a short margin, but he didn’t get back in to the election in any respect. Although the debate was extremely interesting from the right and the left alike, McCain has ended his campaigning in the national eye with a certainly benefiting performance — but I can’t stress enough that McCain didn’t do enough to make a difference in the voting booth. And this will ultimately contribute to McCain’s continuing loss in the polls. 

So I’ll open this up to the commenters: Who won the debate, by how much, and will it make a short and long term difference?

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In the extremely complicated game of politics, few things are for certain in the subject of strategy, especially the outcome of an already press-plagued presidential race for history — from every standpoint. And when the fact that the race has had arguably the most strings and skeletons attached then ever before is thrown in to the equation, the expression: “Its politics — anything can happen” truly goes literal. 

But in the same sense, the presidential debates have been what many would call the most uneventful part of the campaign, when many bloggers (including me), strategists and the press alike stressed that the debates would do the opposite: setting off major gaffes and swinging the polls. 

And as contradicting as this may sound, I am staying with my prior claim with one event in mind — the final presidential debate. This is because (in a nutshell) McCain must successfully make debate waves or he will lose. 

 Why? The final debate is essentially McCain’s last public  stand against his opponent before the election, and both  campaigns know that McCain does not want to enter an  election with the poll deficit that he has today. 

 And because of this, McCain will have to look for holes to  punch at more now than ever.

Am I suggesting he will attempt to pull off a: Lloyd Bentsen? No, but Bentsen’s “You are no Jack Kennedy” debate stab makes a good strategic point — if McCain intends to win the debate with some sort of effect carried out in the polls, he must not attack Obama in the way that he has but rather all in — with one soundbite. 

If I can refer to one of my famous analogies, McCain’s theoretical sling shot has endless ammuntion and is relatively cheap, but won’t win him anything in the long run, as opposed to an expensive one shot Bazooka — A.K.A a knockout soundbite. 

But does this exist? In my opinion, no. 

If Obama uses the same common sense debate strategy he has been using so far, he will essentially know the above points. And if he does, he will simply prepare for the debate like the previous two — calmly presenting his policies and safely pointing out contradictions and points by McCain. With this strategy, Obama simply saves himself from politically falling on his face.

But also, in doing this, Obama also presents the best defense to the only offense that McCain can throw at him. What do I mean? In short, while McCain is searching for a throw his soundbite through the crowd, Obama has the ability to see McCain’s strategy before it starts — and possibly intercepting the soundbite when it comes. 

So I’ll open this up to the commenters: “Is McCain going to try this, and what would the outcome be?”

In the final stages of the presidential election, there is certainly no disputing that the national spotlight has shifted to Barack Obama rather than John McCain, whether rightfully so or not. 

While listening to a Fox Radio broadcast, a republican strategist put out a bold analogy in a similarly bold topic, quoting:

The party that can’t lose [Dem.] has nominated a candidate that can’t win, and the party that can’t win [Rep.] has nominated a candidate that can’t lose.

Although the quote isn’t exactly historically accurate (its very debatable), nor do I necessarily agree with what the man said, he certainly raises a very good point. 

 Although I am a (obviously non-racist) liberal Obama  supporter who frankly doesn’t care about his previous  political involvements, I know for a fact that many other  people don’t share my views — whether they support  Obama or McCain. 

 Several polls have shown that a great number of people are  in fact concerned with Ayers and other people’s involvement  with Obama, mostly the people that the McCain campaign  have hit on in their recent campaigning.

 It is of course also debatable if those campaign tactics have  in fact succeeded (maybe another post), but my main point here is to raise an even more subtle question: “Has Obama’s background and not necessarily clear past kept the political race as close as it is?” 

In my opinion the answer is yes. 

The McCain campaign, in my view, is taking extremely long and (I’ll quote Obama on this) “erratic” bounds as far as attacks, but it has worked to some extent with the general audience. As pointed out in a great post, McCain’s attacks may have not convinced any talking head to intellectual blogger. But I disagree with the post it its claim that they has altogether failed. 

But in the same sense, Obama is still a clear shot away from the White House, and this issue most likely would be far from relevant in that were to happen.

So instead I’ll open up another (certainly way off track) concept to the commenters, which is further prompted by my original question: Has Obama’s background and not necessarily clear past kept the political race as close as it is?

What if a non-scandalous John Edwards were in Obama’s political place at the moment? Would the election be more of a landslide? 

—- In my opinion, this would be completely irrelevant and false, mostly because I support Obama because of his policies rather than his past involvements. —

 

As a bit of an off-topic post: Today I heard something that I had heard in different contexts all my life, but never really brought out in a political light. In a Yom Kippur sermon, a rabbi pointed out to me something the all of us have (or are going to learn) the hard way — it is the human instinct to always be right. 

I know that we have all heard this before, but bare with me. The speech was mostly about the science of insisting on being correct to reduce sadness and stress, but as a political junkie rather than a health enthusiast, one point of the sermon clung on to me. 

The Rabbi pointed out this (not a direct quote):

This human knack is also translated in many ways than one….into politics. If you remember the famous Nixon/Kennedy debate, and visited a predominately Nixon-favoring apartment, the people living there would say: “look at this whooping we are giving Kennedy!” But if you went to a Kennedy supporting apartment, they would most likely say the opposite: “Look at this pounding we are handing Nixon!”

And although this would certainly not be rare in the present as well, the rabbi’s point was brought out completely in his last quote:

But the interesting thing here was is if you were in the far-right apartment building and Nixon [in the debate] stared straight at the camera and said, “I am a crook. I am not nearly qualified enough to become president compared to my opponent — and frankly, this was a stupid idea to run in the first place.” then the Nixon supporters in the apartment would most definitely roar in approval, saying: “Now there is an honest man fit for the job as commander and chief.”

 What the rabbi was getting at in my opinion was the fact  that all over the political spectrum there are people who  very intensely support their candidate.

 And although this is certainly not bad, (I wrote a while back  on this) some of these people are (this is just my opinion)  fixated on destroying the other candidate via the internet  and media. And this, in my opinion, can really derail them  as voters, and more importantly Americans.

 To support a candidate in this day and age is to support  someone that you truly believe can make an America that you want, not a congressman, senator, or frankly — another candidate’s America. But when a person rises above a certain passion for a candidate, many will instead turn to attacking the opposing party’s candidate.

And in doing this the really lose touch of their pick for president and become engrossed in a negative mindset of convincing other people that a candidate is not fit as president.

No, I am not having some sort of crisis or am trying out to be a guru, but my main point here is that these people, instead of using this incredible amount of energy on their candidate, choose to use it to attempt to persuade others into something that is truly their own choice.

If you want to get very deep into the subject, this can be traced to many other things involving religion, racism, and cults, but my meaning here is that equally, on both sides of the political spectrum, there is a very radical but still functional mental factor that continues to persuade large numbers of voters.

Today Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin presented her second speech in as many days on the topic of opponent Barack Obama’s political involvement with past leader of radical group Weather Underground — a subject repeatedly punched by the McCain campaign. Palin’s words were responded with boos and shouting alike from the McCain supporting crowd, a harsh way of showing they wanted more. 

But has this been the response from the general public, especially neutral undecideds? 

The popular trend has been no, but past and present pollster stats have had a history of contradicting this claim. But in contrast, Barack Obama’s recent climb in the polls have been widely linked with the fact that his campaign has been running a lower percentage of attack ads. 

But in truth it really comes down to the campaign making their attacks carefully and with strategy. Although incredibly dated, my case in point is knockout campaign ad “daisy” by then-presidential candidate Lyndon Johnson. The ad (click here) was truly a textbook attack that although was in fact a PR gamble, paid off handsomely for the Johnson campaign, and is even credited at times in part for his presidency win.

Why? Though a gamble alone because of its topic, the ad was in fact very well played. The Johnson campaign found a large stumble by opponent Barry Goldwater where he stated that nuclear bombing Vietnam was a possibility. 

For those as young as me, to put this into prospect: the political importance of capitalizing on the uncertainty and fear of a nuclear war in 1964 was by all means not the equivalent but rather of the same concept as a candidate in this race falling on a political pot of gold. In other words, finding something (most useful would be a quote) coming out of the opposing campaign that involved the prospect of funding the people who are suspected to have started the financial crisis.  

 But once something like this has been discovered, the  campaign must in fact use their information carefully. 

 What is my point? There are essentially three steps a  campaign must take to orchestrate a successful ad — a juicy  and controversial topic (in Daisy’s case a nuclear war), a  somewhat truthful piece of information from the opponent  (the more untruthful it is the more skilled the director must  be), and finally a non-generic: “and this is why you should  vote John ’64” quote. 

 And “daisy” not only hit straight on all of those topics, but  also found time to put fourth an intense start (the young girl counting roses that turns in to a T-Minus countdown for an nuclear bomb) that has made people think and argue for decades.

And what does this have to do with the 2008 presidential race? In a strategic sense, almost everything.

In my opinion, Obama’s lead has come from two things — his policies and the topic of this post — McCain campaigning. 

But not as you might suspect — I am not discrediting McCain for his negativing campaigning itself, but rather the fact that it has not successfully followed all the points to make a successful PR ploy. This is simply because he has thrown out way too many talking points as ads, and hasn’t followed what has worked in the past and will continue to — a central arguement.

In what was anticipated to be a debate of gaffes rather than politics, the first and only vice presidential debate was of more depth and quality than then its preceder — the presidential debate. I say this not in my political view, but of the nation’s vibe preceding the event. And this is essentially because of hype. 

There is no disputing from either party that the preparation for tonight was unbalanced. The public, mainstream media, and bloggers alike were seemingly convinced two different ways: the first that Palin would gaffe, and the second that she would be surprisingly intelligent. In a sense, both were right and wrong. 

John McCain had Palin prepared, but from any perspective he knew Palin would be Palin. The Governor, policies aside, has a distinct personality that he could not change no matter how much she was prepared. In a non-partisan sense, Palin has a not only unique personality, but a certain way of bringing out her points, and that is what has made her successful on the political stage. 

However, the McCain campaign could and did save her from a gaffe. Again staying non-partisan, Palin has and is so closely examined that she (as a completely new national politician), could very well send off a misjudged point or flat out gaffe that would explode onto the MSM stage. My case in point would be Palin’s disastrous CBS interview with Katie Couric. 

And because of this, one of the few things that the McCain camp had the ability to do before the debate is give Palin a response to Biden’s likely attacks so that she didn’t gaffe. That was definitely apparent tonight.

 And this leads us to the debate, which I will flat out say that  Joe Biden won. In simple text, Palin was rehearsed, but  Biden knew which points to pursue and picked his fights. 

 Biden came into the debate as an underdog to win.  What I  mean by this is that the press essentially predicted Palin to  decide not the winner or loser, but rather if she would lose  well or collapse. Biden, however, was never perceived to  walk out of the door with a loss. 

And this changed dramatically with the start of the debate. A main point that I would like to get out is the fact that I sensed a feeling of renewal. Despite the fact that the media had called for a one-edged debate with a gaffed ending, both candidates were place on the same level. 

This is what gave Palin a boost out of the gates — no one expected anything, and because of this, Palin showed a surprising degree of fluentness in her points, something that took everyone off-guard. And in a sense, Palin used this to run away with the first topic — the economy. 

Then came foreign policy.

The main turning point in this debate was exactly what Biden needed — a direct soundbite — coming after Palin’s first talking point on foreign policy in which she essentially backed up her ticket but never gave examples.

Biden answered in what I would call the best way possible — reading:

“With all due respect, I didn’t hear a plan”

In this quote, Biden both found his grip on the debate and swept Palin off her feet for the first time. The quote itself was simple, but orchestrated what is essentially the biggest difference with both tickets as far as foreign policy — ending the war and winning it. He took advantage of a bad talking point from Palin, and then turned it into a much needed soundbite.

From then on, Biden rode the wave of confidence, further taking chances with the crowd and the public, in example — quoting that Dick Cheney has been the “worst vice president” the US has had, and later in the debate jumping on a softball question about what would happen if he would replace Obama in president if something were to happen.

In short, the debate showed its ups and downs, but in the end Palin lost not because of a gaffe, but rather through a single quote.

It seems like the press is now convinced on two topics — the economic bailout that has cost us one trillion in a day — and everything about Sarah Palin. Because I am no economics professional and am too young to have a bank account, I have become more or less obsessed with Palin and her press craze. 

Very early this month, I found a small blog offering that John McCain’s campaign should ask Palin to step down as running mate, in what seemed like a drunken tone, which I had very little interest for mostly because the blog’s credibility and links were nothing less than bogus. 

I then started seeing more and more blogs pop up with this topic, along with the occasional webzine posting a opinion piece with similar views to the original blog. But I was extremely surprised to see the story go all the way to CNN’s Jack Cafferty File, a very prestigious, and to me, credible opinion blog. So as I sifted through the hundreds of comments, some (let us say) “interesting” points came up. This is one that I will center my analysis around — written by “erica”:

If he [John McCain] has half a brain he will – but I think we know how much brain he has, based on the fact he chose her in the first place.

I originally noticed this comment because it was so overly partisan that it triggered dozens of follow up arguments, but after staring at it for quite a long time, I saw something different in it — it was completely true…without the “brain” comments. 

 In truth, McCain made a smart decision, but a very  important one in his acquisition of Palin. And many can  agree that it has not paid off. 

 In my perspective, Palin was chosen in the most part for a  nation-wide press boost and to collect outer right  conservatives who otherwise wouldn’t support McCain. It is  widely disputed if they intended to also herd in former  Hillary Clinton supporters, but that is completely off topic. 

 In short, for whatever reason John McCain choose Sarah  Palin, he cannot avoid the fact that he has chosen her. He  also cannot avoid the fact that he has backed her up and  called her “the best running mate I could have chosen”  multiple times. So this now brings me to a revised version  of the comment I saw. 

John McCain is now feeling his Sarah Palin press fire burn out in the midst of the economic crisis, and although he and his staff know that Palin does not have a good chance of coming out of the debate (or really any public appearance) with an increase in the polls, he has chosen her. He cannot replace her. 

He simply can’t. Sending Palin into a debate that now seems impossible to win and hard to stay alive would prompt any political writer, commentator, strategist, blogger — anyone to think that it would be a good campaign move to replace her. But he can’t.

Palin, in her VP beginnings, was a literal press flame although she barely ever choose to enter the media. And I, as well as many liberal and conservatives alike thought it she could carry that media flame all the way to the White House. As a Democrat and teenage citizen of the US, I was terrified by her, but as a political strategist I strongly thought that she could eventually carry her stardom all the way. But I forgot one thing — she had to debate. I stand corrected. 

The McCain campaign has found themselves in a trap. Their favorite baseball was hit as a home run, but instead of clearing their fence to their friendly neighbor’s yard, it was hit too hard, landing in the haunted house that Joe Biden lives in. 

In more simple words, Palin was a genius idea that worked, perhaps too well. The conservatives just didn’t look far ahead enough politically and tested all available traps to see that this could happen. Palin started off brilliantly, but then she made some mistakes and the press as well as many others have exploited them. Hence her “Bridge To Nowhere” claim that everyone from Bono to Keith Olberman have capitalized on. Her two failed interviews that are now legendary on youtube, being smashed to pieces by comedian Tina Fey. But most of all, it is the few information that has been given out, most of it called lies. 

So as Palin limps into the debates, there is a very low chance she will make it out. And there is literately nothing John McCain can do about it.

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