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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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.

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.

Politics played center stage in the United States on Friday night, once again occupying the front page of press outlets everywhere, and hitting hard in the blogosphere. But in plain words: we won’t see anything until we see the Vice Presidential debate. 

And this is essentially because of Barack Obama and John McCain. After a debate of their own that was close enough to produce mixed feelings along the left and right press, both senators have simply set the grand stage up for the rest of their respective tickets. 

But what I really am yearning to see is Sarah Palin. 

Because for the first time, I believe that she is under pressure. Since her “blindside the press” entrance into the national stage, I have been fascinated by her stardom that has caused a wildfire inside the media. But most prominently, I have been in awe of her difficulty to     interview. 

And this raises a great point that has gone unnoticed — Sarah Palin’s vice presidential debate could very easily end in a complete disaster for the Republican party, mostly because no one knows what to expect from her, including me. Why? She has avoided the press, only occurring in three formal interviews, which is a sharp contrast to her debate opponent: Joe Biden has appeared in nearly one hundred.

But what I do know is that what we have seen from her rare appearances is that she is not very good at thinking on her feet. There is no disputing from either party that (I’m not about to get partisan) that she has fumbled in all of her interviews, sticking with her proven false points. But there are two very large differences from an MSM interview and a debate — one being that it is for much higher stakes. 

The other, (which as a democrat I must admit I am happy about) is the fact that she is debating Joe Biden. What I mean by this is that Biden is essentially the worst person she could dream to face — someone who (unlike Obama), will ruthlessly exploit her lies and attack with “brutally honest remarks” (CNN). And this is not just because he has this type of political strategy, but he can afford to. 

Why? I believe that if Joe Biden successfully makes Sarah Palin look like a mayor again on national television, the McCain camp’s “cheater” and “darkhorse” cries will be overshadowed by Palin’s backlash. 

And if he doesn’t succeed? I think that Biden will at least be able to recognize that his tactic is not working as he might have wanted, and go back to the subject where he can win — politics. 

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It would be put well quoting that tonight’s debate “almost wasn’t,” far exceeding my expectations of a full out brawl.

But before I start, in a nutshell, what really occurred the most to me is that there never really was a knockout punch, a home-run swing — a bold statement or attack that either tore off the roof or declared a real winner. There were really more or less small policy jabs, and in that respect I think that Barack Obama came out on top strategically. 

 A conservative CNN guest commentator put it extremely  well, pointing out that in a social sense, there were truly  two different people debating — a confident foreign policy  candidate who will accuse, accuse, and accuse, and then an  intellectual candidate who very acknowledges his opponents  rights and points out his wrongs, playing out the debate on  the defensive. 

 Although I am not sure that I agree with the statement on  offense and defense, I think that the man raises a very good  point — that Obama will win a debate through his policies,  not his soundbites.  

And this is really where Obama came right off the bat strong, starting by discussing the economic crisis. His first message was ripe and straight to the point, first throwing out the problem and what he will do to fix it, then proclaiming in a more subdued way that his opponent will take a different and less successful path more towards our president. And I also think that he brought out the point of: “Do you want the next four years under a president similar to ours, who is by the way the same person who you give approval ratings below freezing to?” 

And I think that the general audience thought a second about that, liberal, moderate or conservative, and make their own decision. 

And I think at the same time, McCain felt his grasp slipping. CNN provided a audience reaction poll (it obviously debatable if it is accurate) which showed a huge advantage out of the gate to Obama. 

And this was a very decisive moment in the debate. 

When the topic switched to foreign policy, I noticed a McCain taking chances. The pinnacle of this was a very bold statement from McCain about Russian President Vladimir Putin, quoting:

“I looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin, and I saw three letters — a K, a G, and a B.”

And although the strongly conservative crowd went nothing less than “ga-ga” about that comment, I think that in the long term that really lost the debate for McCain. But it essentially wasn’t the point itself, rather a small turning point in the debate showing the larger and larger chances that McCain was taking to make his points. And in the end, I think that people will think about the debate in a whole and move towards the conclusion that Barack Obama was more in control, not jumpy, and factual. But most of all, he wasn’t trying to start a World War Three inside that Mississippi auditorium, rather pointing out what is wrong and right. 
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The Need For A Debate

September 25, 2008

*** After a non-partisan post on the strategic side of John McCain’s campaign “suspension” as well as some comments questioning my views on it, this is my partisan take on this issue: ***

Although the economy is in desperate need of help one way or another, I think that the American people desperately need a debate. Both candidates have different plans to fix the economy crisis, and both won’t release something for the press without mentioning that President Bush’s plan has major flaws in it. And to say it in a warm way, our president is “retiring” in a matter of days, and if elected, both candidates, mostly Barack Obama, will lead our country in a different matter. 

 And this is precisely why I am personally disgusted to see  John McCain suspend his campaign to chime into  Washington’s bailout plan, because when he knows that if  elected, he will chose to (at the least) push congress to  tweak what is being discussed right now. 

 And in a more broad sense, I am surprised to see both  Barack Obama and John McCain with president Bush and  bailout officials at a high profile White House meeting. In  my opinion, as far as taking action with a bailout, both  candidates are still senators. This contradicts the fact that  these two “senators” are seemingly of a higher authority then anyone else in this issue. 

But the main point that I would like to make is the need for a direct debate. For years now we have had to make our own media points based on attack ads and press statements shot to and from campaign headquarters. I, as well as the rest of the american people, deserve a straight-faced talk between both candidates, and see what they stand for as opposed to what they campaigns release to the press.

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Today’s announcement from John McCain was more than what the press uttered, it was a strategic campaign move that more than took Barack Obama off-guard, but poses as a trap. 

This morning McCain announced the suspension of his campaign and his proposal to delay the first presidential debate so he can participate in bailout talks, urging opposing candidate Barack Obama to do the same. 

But to me this is no more than a genius PR stunt with a popular campaign trap strapped on as bait. By suspending his campaign, McCain has provided himself a chance to rebound from the political loss he was handed to by Obama’s bold economy talking point that was made out of the bailout plan when it first surfaced. 

 The most crucial word used in McCain’s statement is  “suspend.” This is a popular strategic move which acts as a  giant bait for the opposing party to jump on, and this has  essentially already started. Similar to what McCain attempted  during Hurricane Ike and the GOP Convention, McCain is  taking the hint of the economy crisis and the bailout and  stopping campaigning to help a topic that is popular with  the America people, and most importantly, popular with the  non-partisan mainstream media. 

 What McCain is essentially doing is getting himself into the  press as someone who seemingly wants help with the  economy, and furthermore give Obama enough bait for him to complain. And if this is successful, McCain could unleash a statement looking something like this:

I am disgusted over the selfish actions of senator Barack Obama for intervening politically with a cause that is posing a national crisis. I originally encouraged him to join with me and rise above campaigning to help solve this problem, but it seems that has ignored me and thus the rest of the American people.

And this could seriously injure the Obama campaign, hitting them with something they have never been hit before: a attack questioning their morals. And so far, Obama has been fast on his feet reacting to McCain’s decisions. We’ll just have to see for ourselves if he takes the bait.