While watching the first presidential debate, I found both candidates to be very fluid and articulate, and both gave the impression that they were very knowledgeable about pretty much everything they spoke on. I’ve slept on it, and my opinion hasn’t really changed. I don’t see a clear winner of this debate.
Obviously, the two have different opinions, but in terms of expressing those opinions clearly and in a striking way, I think McCain and Obama were about equal.
A CNN poll indicates that Obama is the winner, but once you adjust it for the disproportionate number of Democratic respondents, it comes out even.
Each of the candidates has posted some “fact checks” on the web. McCain’s list is here; Obama’s is here. FactCheck.org also has a list. (Shockingly Snopes doesn’t have anything up yet, but I expect they will soon enough.)
Other than a couple of inflated/outdated numbers from both candidates, I don’t think either one did all that badly in terms of misrepresenting facts. They were more like minor quibbles than major issues. I think the candidates did well in responding at times when factual errors were presented, so I don’t think the errors will have too much of a negative effect.
There was one odd thing, a seeming role-reversal that kind of put me off-balance. In this debate, McCain seemed to be the one advocating diplomacy and non-warlike solutions to problems with other countries, while Obama seemed to be more hard-nosed. I would never have expected Obama to suggest that, if Pakistan was unable or unwilling to work with us, we “take them out”. (McCain was almost gleeful at this; can’t say that I blame him.)
As expected, McCain came across as better-versed in military strategy, while Obama seemed more in touch with the American middle class. They both made very good points on their pet issues.
McCain succeeded to a certain degree in highlighting Obama’s inexperience with foreign policy. The Pakistan gaffe didn’t help much. But it wasn’t damaging, I think, because the issue is a double-edged sword for McCain. He claims over and over that he’s a maverick, but he’s quick to point out opinions that were not formed through years of experience doing things the way we’ve always done them. This has the unfortunate effect of implying that he’s the best man for the job because he is not a maverick; because he knows “how things are done”. McCain eagerly jumped on the “change” bandwagon, but he defeats himself with this sort of argument.
All in all, though, I was pretty impressed by both candidates. I’ve said before that I think it’ll be okay regardless of who wins. My opinion of McCain has dipped, especially in light of some of his recent decisions, but last night proved at least that he can plan for talks and think on his feet. Obama, as usual, spoke fluidly and passionately, and was able to clarify his positions immediately and decisively.
The next debate should be interesting.