There was no Al Gore sigh, no George H.W. Bush checking his watch. The occasional moments when candidates let down their guard or lose their cool — unfortunate moments for them, but entertaining for the audience — were for the most part absent from Friday’s presidential debate.
Instead, what we saw was two generally disciplined candidates who muted some of the tendencies that have given them trouble in past debates. And in so doing, they muted some of the considerable contrasts between them. These two vastly different candidates seemed to morph a little bit into the other, or at least move a bit closer to the middle.
And so if the 72-year-old John McCain didn’t really seem too old, the 47-year-old Barack Obama didn’t really seem too young, either. McCain went on the attack often, and Obama gave measured, careful responses.
The Illinois senator avoided a tendency he’s had in some past debates to speak haltingly and was more forceful, less aloof and less windy than in the past. McCain generally avoided appearing hot and bothered, though occasionally he reverted to an awkward frustrated smile or smirk when hearing an Obama response he didn’t like.
Political communication analyst Kathleen Hall Jamieson thought McCain probably spent too much time telling Obama how much he “failed to understand” one thing or another.
“It’s a problem when a candidate keeps repeating a point about the other person,” said Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “It makes it seem like he thinks the audience doesn’t understand.”
For MORE of this AP story, go HERE.
Meanwhile in a poll conducted by CNN, it’s apparent that Barack Obama emerged the clear winner of Friday night’s debate:
Regardless of which candidate you happen to support, who do you think did the best job in the debate — Barack Obama or John McCain?
Did _______ do a better or worse job than you expected?
Obama: Better 57%, Worse 20%, Same 23%
McCain: Better 60%, Worse 20%, Same 18%
Next, regardless of which presidential candidate you support, please tell me if you think Barack Obama or John McCain would better handle each of the following issues:
– The war in Iraq: Obama 52%, McCain 47%
– Terrorism: McCain 49%, Obama 45%
– The economy: Obama 58%, McCain 37%
– The current financial crisis: Obama 54%, McCain 36%
Thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each one better described Barack Obama or John McCain during tonight’s debate:
– Was more intelligent: Obama 55%, McCain 30%
– Expressed his views more clearly: Obama 53%, McCain 36%
– Spent more time attacking his opponent: McCain 60%, Obama 23%
– Was more sincere and authentic: Obama 46%, McCain 38%
– Seemed to be the stronger leader: Obama 49%, McCain 43%
– Was more likeable: Obama 61%, McCain 26%
– Was more in touch with the needs and problems of people like you: Obama 62%, McCain 32%
Based on what _______ said and did in tonight’s debate, do you think he would be able to handle the job of president if he is elected?