The Eclectic Quill

September 27, 2008

How Obama Won the Debate and Why the MSM Doesn’t Get It

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 10:45 am

It’s clear from the post debate polling that Obama won. There’s really only one way to measure something like this and that’s who convinced the most voters, and in at least four different polls undecideds broke for Obama, and in three of the four cases by large margins. The mainstream media lives in a political bubble, be it liberal, conservative or that mythical netherworld of "non-partisan." In this world ad-hominem attacks, anger, lies and the like become so common place that the pundits lose sight of what normal people tolerate and accept as appropriate behavior, and more importantly want from their leaders. Essentially there are two kinds of undecided voters watching this. One is the kind that is not all that into politics and is looking at what kind of person the two candidates are. The other is informed and just hasn’t made up their minds yet. On either count, Obama won. Here’s how.

First, Nixon sweated, Bush Sr. checked his watch, and McCain refused to look at Obama. This was more than just a failure to make eye contact with Obama; it was a willful, stiff-necked, jaw clenching, hand gesturing, agitated refusal to even turn his head in Obama’s direction. In fact there were several times when, though he was already looking away McCain looked even further away. While the sweating Nixon may have just been the lights, and the watch check might have been overblown, in this cas the body language was to consistent, too pronounced, too obvious to be ignored. The audience didn’t read it wrong, McCain was just an angry, bitter man. Contrast this with Obama who first looked at McCain throughout the debate, and more importantly, after some urging from Lim Lehrer addressed him directly. While McCain would address Lehrer and talk about Obama in the third person, as though he were with a marriage counselor and Lehrer was supposed to be the judge, Obama would look at McCain and address him as John. McCain came across as bitter and angry, and Obama came across as congenial and friendly, and perhaps, considering McCain’s demeanor, even forbearing. McCain looked like a grump and Obama looked like a leader.

Second, in his constant assertions that Obama didn’t "understand" McCain failed to make the intended point that Obama lacked the experience and knowledge McCain had because Obama’s own words demonstrated the opposite. Obama discoursed in a way that came across as cogent, reasonable and informed. As a result the patronizing platitudes of McCain  served to make McCain look closed-minded more than they made Obama look naïve. Again, contrast this with Obama’s "I agree" comments that were littered throughout. Particularly on this point the MSM, and the McCain camp as well, thought that Obama was doing damage to himself, but that’s not the case. What this served to do was do was show a potential President that really sought to be a "uniter," willing to reach across party lines, and willing to express agreement where there was some. Some McCain spinners and perhaps even some pundits might see this as just the way that the Obama camp is spinning it, but I believe that this was indicative of the way Obama negotiates. It’s the way he is, trying to find a common ground before a point of difference. This again, is something that I believe the undecided voter would find attractive.

Then to compound it all McCain’s constant story-telling, meant to demonstrate his lengthy experience, made him sound more like a soporific, rambling old coot. By the end of the story the average person was lost as to what the point of the story was and had forgotten what question had been asked. On the other hand Obama came across uncharacteristically crisp and clear in most of his responses. Understanding has never been a weakness for him, but often he’s over-explained issues and it has come across as trying to avoiding a direct answer. Last night he was Clintonesque in his answers, giving deliberate and explained answers which the viewer that wasn’t a wonk could understand. This again was in stark contrast to McCain’s rambling. In short to the viewer who was looking to see what kind of person the two were, they saw one man who was an angry, bitter, closed minded, rambling old man, unwilling to even visually engage his opponent; on the other side the saw an articulate, engaging, intelligent, calm, friendly and cogent man trying to engage his opponent in a civil way in spite of being mistreated. Come to think of it I’m not sure why the pundits were confused about why the independents broke so heavily for Obama.

Perhaps it’s that other kind of voters that leave them confused. After all they stipulate that McCain "won on points". Now these kinds of voters either already know most of the facts, or are going to go online and check them. They aren’t going to be easily satiated by a couple of fact checks by the network news, they’re going to probably go and check a few objective websites like and see who was telling the truth. I myself looked at about a half dozen websites and while I found around 25 factual "errors" by McCain, ranging from the ticky tack, (Ike never resigned) to the flat out lie, (he wasn’t even elected when Reagan sent the Marines to Lebanon and he repeated the oft told lie about Obama’s tax plan) to the just boneheaded comment (Pakistan is a failed state). Obama had maybe two or three errors all of them in the  ticky tack category. Even these were more in the realm of the sorts of back and forths between he and McCain such as the Kissinger exchange. (Kissinger said he the Secretary of State could meet without preconditions, and now clarifies that this is different from a Presidential meeting. However on the ohter hand Obama was right, as Kissinger said just two weeks ago that he would meet.) The bottom line here is that McCain was more wrong on more points than Obama. More importantly Obama was essentially honest. The net result was that Obama came across as better informed and/or more honest. So adding to the list of the other things they saw the informed voter also saw a dishonest, confused man or a clear and honest man.

If we step back and take a look at the big picture here, the MSM is very wrong about there being a big winner, knockout punch. This is horrible for McCain, because the two things he was trying to run on blew up in his face. He had been trying to present himself as being the one who was "ready to lead". Instead he showed himself as not being able. Obama showed not only that he was able, but also that he was ready. Additionally, the polls indicate that among the undecided voters Obama won the day on who would handle Iraq better. This was the foreign policy debate. This was supposed to be McCain’s home field advantage and he got blown out at home-and when he was already down a couple of games in the standings no less! This was a big win for Obama, and perhaps the beginning of the end for John McCain. The question now isn’t whether Obama will win, but whether he can help get those last two Senate filibuster blocking seats.



  1. Bill Mahr said on his show that Obama kicked McSames ass, yet Newsweek says McSame won.

    Comment by 3rdStoneFromTheSun — September 27, 2008 @ 5:26 pm | Reply

  2. Thursdays debate should put the final nail in the McCain campaign coffin if this one hasn’t already. Get out the popcorn people!!!!

    Comment by Dean — September 27, 2008 @ 10:17 pm | Reply

  3. What numbers support Obama winning? Is that a fact? If so, please site something that supports that bold statement as fact. CNN even goes as far as to say that their sample included more democratic viewers in their poll. So, please instead of bloviating and ranting about facts, open up with a fact, instead of an opinion. Facts? You are furthering your agenda and as a man of the cloth, I find it reprehensible. If my minister uttered a word on voting, either in service or outside – I would walk away.

    Bottom line for me, this simple fact that you probably will not address: in the midst of this greed and lack of regulation (aren’t those Obama’s words?) we find that he and Sen. Dodd were the #2 and #1 recipients of donations from a corrupt group. Outstanding stuff and someone I should vote for? Hardly.

    Comment by poolboy55 — September 29, 2008 @ 2:43 pm | Reply

  4. OK Poolboy, let’s take these in order.

    First, here’s the evidence. It being so widely circulated that this was the case I didn’t find it necessary to include, but since you alone of the hundreds of people who have read this entry appear ignorant of this fact, here’s the link.

    Second, the CNN has more Dems, yes. So does the country as a whole, so it’s statistically consistent. Also, whatever they were, they were undecided voters.

    I’m not “bloviating and ranting” as a “man of the cloth.” First, while I am a minister in a fashion, I make no claim to be a “man of the cloth.” Second, I’m discussing as an AMERICAN not as a minister here, and I’m certainly doing nothing to advance my career as such.

    As to Dodd and Obama being the #1 and #2 recipients of donations from “a corrupt group” I thin I need more to go on that just a general, uncorroborated accusation.

    Comment by kelly — September 29, 2008 @ 3:19 pm | Reply

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