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    Debate live-blog

    6:15 PDT: Late start.  I'm not sure what Brokaw's question about who would be Treasury Secretary was in aid of.  On the "How is the bailout supposed to work?" question, Obama seems to be giving a competent explanation of the potential danger of the credit crisis.

    6:18 PDT: Did John McCain just say that he's going to fix the economy by ending the culture of lobbying and cronyism in Washington?  Why should anyone believe that when he can't do it within his own campaign?  Also, earmarks!

    6:21 PDT: McCain reminds us of McCain-Feingold.  Whatever happened with McCain's encounter with his own law earlier this year?

    6:24 PDT: Priorities?  McCain: All three at once!  Bipartisanship, Reagan, etc.  Obama: We'll have to prioritize.  Sounds like he puts energy in first place.  Health care is number two.  Education is number three.

    6:28 PDT: Brokaw cracks debate time deficit/federal deficit joke.  Zing!

    6:30 PDT: Some earmarks are more equal than others.  Visceral reaction: I'm watching this in HD and this format makes McCain look small and feeble.  Obama is actually looking much better here than I thought he would.  He's coming across tall and vibrant.

    6:34 PDT: Obama is hitting the earmark reality again.  It's a great point, although I do wonder about how any specific numbers play with the average voter.

    6:37 PDT: I have to say that if the question was whether we'd see the old, nice guy McCain or the new, nasty McCain tonight, so far it's been old McCain.

    6:40 PDT: Taxes!  Both of them getting a bit down in the weeds on tax policy.  As I said above, I always wonder how well this sort of thing plays with the average voter whenever I hear a lot of numbers flying around.

    6:41 PDT: McCain on Social Security/Medicare: We know what the problem is.  The solution?  Form a commission.  McCain is definitely staying on message and keeping his tone positive though.

    6:44 PDT: McCain is hitting nuclear power pretty hard.  I have to say that I agree with him completely on this.  We'll see how Obama responds.

    6:46 PDT: Obama hits back hard on McCain's record of voting against alternative energy and supporting expanded drilling.  We can't drill our way out of the oil dilemma.  This is a great point that needs to be pounded.

    6:47 PDT: Constable Brokaw shows up again.

    6:49 PDT: John McCain is unrepentantly full of shit on offshore drilling.  I could go into greater detail as to why this is true, but that's the short version.

    6:56 PDT: Major sparring on health care.  McCain hit Obama hard on mandates.  Obama says health care is a right.  Lost his mother to cancer at 53.  I just lost my aunt to cancer, also age 53.  She also had trouble getting her treatment covered, even though she had existing coverage when she was diagnosed.  This point speaks to me as I imagine it does to anyone who's gone through something similar.  Obama calls McCain out for being a fundamental deregulator.

    7:01 PDT: McCain: "We don't have time for on the job training."  It strikes me that, so far, much of what I've heard tonight on the part of both candidates has been said many times before.  In short, I haven't seen any game-changers yet.

    7:03 PDT: Obama: "There has never been a nation in the history of the world that has seen its economy decline and maintained its military superiority."  That's good rhetoric, and he's paraphrasing Eisenhower if I'm not mistaken.

    7:05 PDT: Brokaw pits the Obama doctrine against the McCain doctrine.

    7:10 PDT: John McCain's hero is Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt.

    7:14 PDT: Obama breaks the format rules to engage in a follow-up afte McCain hits him on Pakistan.  Hits McCain on "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran", annhilitate N. Korea and "Next up, Baghdad!".  John McCain's jaw visibly seized up, but he's responded coolly enough, falling back on his military experience.  He knows what it's like to send troops into harm's way, etc.

    7:20 PDT: It feels like McCain is overestimating the public perception of how successful the surge has been.  Gallup indicates that about 48% think it's made things better, with 32% saying it hasn't made a difference and 19% saying it's made the situation worse.  I'm not saying he has it wrong, but the way he plays it makes me feel like he thinks people see it as a clear win.  The data aren't necessarily in agreement with him on that.

    7:26 PDT: Is Billy Glad sitting behind the Navy guy?

    7:27 PDT: Unilateral action without UN Security Council approval should Iran attack Israel?  McCain delivers a pretty emphatic affirmative, punctuating it with "Never again."  Obama gives a typically Obama answer, saying that, while we can't allow the UN to have veto power, we have to pursue diplomacy aggressively without taking military options off of the table.

    7:30 PDT: What don't you know and how will you learn it?  Obama will learn it from his wife.  McCain doesn't not know anything.  "What I don't know is what the unexpected will be."  Rumsfeld couldn't have done better.

    7:34 PDT: The two Senators team up to block Brokaw's teleprompter.  Hooray for bipartisanship!


    Well, I have to say that I saw no game-changing moments.  This really wasn't much of a townhall and I don't think McCain ended up with what many seemed to think would be a sort of home-field advantage.  That is to say that I don't think Obama suffered by the format whatsoever.  My general sense was that much of what we heard tonight has been said before.  Visually, I think Obama had the advantage.  He looked tall compared to McCain, swanky and at ease.  McCain looked much more comfortable tonight than he did the last time the two met, but this format put the two candidates much closer together.  As such, there was a much more direct comparison in terms of stature.

    On points, I think Obama will probably maintain his advantage on the economy.  McCain was typically comfortable on foreign policy, but I don't think he succeeded in landing any knockout blows on Obama here.  The audience member from the Navy was nodding his head affirmatively as Obama reminded him how both Iran and N. Korea had advanced nuclear programs under Bush's refusal to talk and it seemed like Obama was connecting well with him there.  As I said above, I'm not sure about how the domestic issues discussion will play with the average voter.  There's a lot of talk about rebates, mandates, earmarks, tax levels, billions and billions, etc.  I don't know what the takeaway is there.  I know that a frequent complaint is that candidates offer bromides instead of details, but how many people really understand policy on the details?  If the details worked, wouldn't candidates dwell on them?

    Anyhow, I think you have to call this a win for Obama.  He stayed cool, on message and looked presidential.  It's not that McCain had a bad night.  It's that Obama didn't.



    Excellent. I didn't know that you were live blogging tonight. Well done, sir.

    I second the win. Further, I think that this is the best debate Obama has done. Cool, on message, and presidential looking, as you've mentioned, but something more. He often has a tendency to get stuck in his head, like he's thinking hard about the question and forgetting that he's supposed to be communicating to an audience. You didn't see that in this debate. Instead of focusing on answering the question in a way that precisely measured his thoughts on the subject, he focused on the message that he wanted to present to the audience, question be damned. This tactic used to piss me off when Reagan did it, but doggone it, it works.

    Big loss for McCain tonight, not because he lost badly but because he desperately needed a big win. And wasn't the townhall format suppost to be his element?

    It was kind of a last minute decision.  I'd never done it before.  I'd probably do it a bit differently next time, but all in all it was fun.

    I think you nailed the post-debate analysis.  I hadn't quite placed my finger on Obama's shift in delivering his answers, but I think you're exactly right.  McCain needed him to screw up.  Not only did he not screw up, but he improved.

    I guess we'll see how the spin comes out.

    I predict that there will be a lot of "Obama won," as there seems to be already, but less of the "McCain didn't look at Obama" and related body language divination crap.

    that tactic of staying on message, question be damned, may work, but it still pisses me off, and Obama was annoyingly good at it tonight. I thought this debate was yet another snooze-fest; I was kind of hoping McCain would throw some desperate haymaker zingers. No such luck. Just the same bunch of talking points and ticky-tack, back-and-forth shit we've heard over and over again ... from both sides.

    The only interesting thing to me was that I thought McCain looked tired, old and somewhat confused at times (I mentioned to my girlfriend that I thought he was also breathing very heavy). I agree that Obama again won, 30% on the strength of his own performance, and 70% by default because McCain needed a gamechanger and didn't find one.

    Hey, I didn't know you were doing this


    Catch ya next time.

    Hey, bee!  Long time, no see.  It was kind of a last-minute thing.  Sorry about the lack of notice.

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