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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Are We Crazy?

posted by on September 27 at 10:35 AM

Slog commenter Ed writes this about our debate liveblog from last night:

After reading all of the polls this morning, pretty much all declaring Obama certainly the winner, if not a pretty clear winner, can we all now agree that you guys know nothing about how “average” Americans are going to view anything? Particularly how they view a debate?

You know, Ed, I’m almost ready to admit that. I want to see a few more post-debate polls before I completely discard the way I was viewing last night’s debate, but for the moment: Yes, it seems like those of us who thought Obama wasn’t tough enough were completely wrong.

First, the polls I believe Ed is talking about:

A CNN snap poll right after the debate found Obama way ahead of McCain on key measures:

• 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%

And a CBS poll found similar results among undecided voters. With them, Obama won by a huge 15-point margin.

And, on top of that, check out the reactions of people in this Fox News focus group. Even they gave Obama the win:

For what it’s worth, we here at the Slog were not alone in failing to realize how well Obama was doing.

But that’s probably not worth much.

So, with the caveat that the CNN and CBS polls are snap polls, and that further polling could show something different, it’s obviously time to ask: What happened? Are we crazy?

I think Ben Smith provided a good first answer last night, blogging from the press file room at the debate:

The mild consensus in the press file was that McCain won, if not in particularly dramatic fashion. The two insta-polls out — from CBS and CNN — found the opposite: That Obama won by a wide margin. CBS had it 39% to 25% for Obama, CNN 51% to 38%.

Maybe the difference was expectations. People covering the campaigns think of Obama as a much-improved debater, and McCain as at times a weak one. McCain, by that standard, overperformed. But people tuning into the race now now think of McCain as an experienced hand, and Obama as a newcomer. Obama more than held his own, and McCain failed to expose him — as he tried — as out of his depth.

Yes, to the different expectations.

And here are two other theories I have on my brain at the moment:

1) People covering the campaign, or watching it closely over the last 20 or so months, have had a long time to get used to watching an African-American make a credible run for the presidency. That part is old news to us. But for people just tuning in, it’s not. Check out the surprise of some of the viewers in Fox’s focus group—Obama is “very articulate,” he “seemed to know what he was doing,” he “seemed to care.” All of those reactions suggest very low expectations for Obama on those scores. Now, really, the only way you can think that Obama isn’t articulate or on top of the issues is if you haven’t been watching and/or have certain assumptions about African-American leaders. Obama won over doubters last night, and many of them probably had unspoken, inchoate, and maybe even blatantly prejudiced concerns about a black man leading them. The press has moved beyond the race question for the most part, but my guess is that’s a huge mistake. For Americans just tuning in, the debates are the moment when they try on the historic idea of this African-American leading the country. Apparently, many find it not as bad as they thought.

2) PTSD. Or, maybe PTKLD. (Post-traumatic Kerry Loss Disorder.) My guess is that liberals who watched the debate through the lens of the last eight years wanted Obama to completely destroy McCain (and their memories of wimpy Democratic candidates, and their fears about how this election will go). Clearly, he didn’t need to do that to win. In fact, based on the insta-poll reactions, too much forcefulness and aggression from Obama would probably have been a mistake.

So, to return to Ed’s question: Am I ready to declare that I’m out of touch with the average American? Almost. I want to see a few more polls, but yeah, I’m almost ready.

But: Really, I’ve never thought that I view the election like an average American. Most normal (and sane) people don’t spend as much time following the race as I do. It’s always a trick to figure out how “average” people will react to things, and if anyone had that answer definitively, he or she would be making a killing in campaign consulting fees (and not, say, blogging on a Saturday morning). What these polls are suggesting to me is that the average American—or, probably more accurately, the average undecided America—is way more average that I was thinking.

UPDATE: Or… maybe we here at the Slog are just way more in touch with the mindset of Washington State voters—who, apparently, think McCain won.

RSS icon Comments


Perhaps it's the "his answers are too cerebral", only me and my liberal friends in Seattle, San Francisco, LA and NYC can understand them; idea some of you keep throwing out. The same people who can't believe how anyone at all could be a Republican are the same ones who have crystal clear ideas on how exactly Obama should have acted...after they've had time to watch videos, read transcripts, and write up a story or two the day after.

Posted by hal | September 27, 2008 10:44 AM

I've signed on to the Easy is as easy does it school of hard knocks.

That being, take the most logistical sound bites familiar in current thematic discourse, multiply it by the forced factoring of pundit political analytical polls, then check into a rehabilitative trance to swammi with my yogis and bear the brunt of the language barriers without a fine tipped prognostication.

This of course puts The Stranger, in the "Cat Seat" so to speak, and in Leauge with the Highways and Senate By-Ways committees to ram through the charges of false indoctrinating by furiously obscure statements for the priestly observers and lobbiest money changers salivating in the wings of post election law schools and legislative chambers.

God save the screams....

Posted by d.b.k. | September 27, 2008 10:49 AM

I was telling you this last night, so consider me incredibly average ;-)

Eli, it goes back to the #1 issue facing Obama before last night -- the electorate said "I don't know him." The reactions you note from Fox viewers are exactly those breakthrough moments happening, all over Undecided Land.

A great night for Obama, methinks.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | September 27, 2008 10:50 AM

I had the same worries and the same reaction to this morning's general coverage. I think there's a lot of worried second-guessing, and I think it's easy to underestimate how fully Obama has adopted the stance of unflappability to his advantage. Where as liberals still nursing painful memories of wimpy Democrats from Kerry all the way back to Dukakis long for a candidate who will get angry and fight back, Obama's responses seem carefully calibrated to seem tough without being threatening. I'm sure Obama and his handlers are acutely aware of the line he must walk here.

Also, I think it exposes the perils of the "Americans are all a pack of redneck morons (except for me and my friends)" meme that is so popular among urban liberals. Many people from varying backgrounds see McCain's relentless condescending attacks as signs of weakness rather than strength, and Obama's refusal to be baited as signs of calmness under pressure rather than weakness.

As a side note, I found myself during several of last night's long-winded exchanges on policy thinking "It is at least a relief to know that our next president will not be a complete idiot."

Posted by flamingbanjo | September 27, 2008 10:58 AM

I watched the pundits and thought they really underrated Obama's performance. As always, they were focused on the small potatoes: McCain attacked more, Obama said McCain was "right", to quote Bill Bennnet, McCain talked about experience. But I think Obama won by the classic terms of debate: he made stronger, better articulated arguments and supported them better with evidence and reasoning. Pundits probably missed this (no offense to slog) because they're so used to ignoring content and parsing the superficialities.

Posted by mnm | September 27, 2008 11:00 AM

listen, i have been following this very closely, and as number 1 put it, you guys seem out of touch. perhaps it was because i was stoned and drunk (most of america?), but i gave obama so much credit for keeping his cool as opposed to looking like an angry black man. as i was yelling at the tv, I realized that obama is a better man than myself.

i also realized how much younger i am that mccain.

Posted by doug | September 27, 2008 11:03 AM

@4: "It is at least a relief to know that our next president will not be a complete idiot."

Aah, but we shall be just one errant chicken-bone away should McFailin win.

Posted by emma's bee | September 27, 2008 11:03 AM

I don't think the polls are an indication of the average American at all. What they indicate to me is that more Democrats watched the debate than Republicans. I come from rural PA and my family are all red ticket voters and they've all made up their minds based on McCain's pro-life and anti gay marriage stances, so why should they watch the debate?

That said, I do think I underestimated Obama's performance. I anticipated that he would bury McCain (based mostly on McCain's inability to read a teleprompter) and when it was close, I was disappointed. Later, as I was listening to the discussions about the debate and remembering key moments, I started to realize how well Obama performed. He really grilled McCain on his Iraq decisions and his comment on McCain's bracelet ("I have a bracelet too...") was masterful; he completely deflated what could have been a strong anti-withdrawal statement from McCain.

This was the foreign policy debate. Obama was supposed to lose and if he succeeded in keeping pace or even coming out a few points ahead, it's a big win for him.

Posted by Tim | September 27, 2008 11:05 AM

Actually, the distinguished conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer said (paraphrasing here) that Obama did quite well and did not falter, and hence it’s a net win for Obama because McCain failed to cause Obama to get caught off guard.

Posted by raindrop | September 27, 2008 11:07 AM


Aah, but we shall be just one errant chicken-bone away should McFailin win.

If that, God forbid, should happen, I hope McCain inherits Dick Cheney's medical staff. They seem to have figured out how to cheat death. Even McCain's brain in a robot body would be preferable to President Palin.

Posted by flamingbanjo | September 27, 2008 11:09 AM

Good post. I thought McCain won (i.e., that middle Americans ans swing voters would think so) -- I was wrong, it seems.

Both of them are relatively unkown by most voters, compared to those of us who follow politics closely. They both seemed credible and okay. So at a time when everyone knows the Republicans are the past, the basic default reaction is the Democrat won. And if there's any "Obama doubters" based on lack of knowledge yes he would have won them over, and those with "unspoken, inchoate" doubts could have been just waiting for a chance to see him in action, but those who are "maybe even blatantly prejudiced" ahem likely aren't going to vote for him ever.

Anyhoo it seems he's got this narrow lead based on many things including his own attributes plus an economic meltdown that keeps the fundamentslals of the race pro Democratic. So even if he like most of our candidates does poorer than he "should do" compared to how Americans line up on the "issues" he likely will win.

Then he only has to govern. I hope we do get a sweeping majority fo 60 Democratic Senators and that the Dems in Congress stop begging the GOP to vote with them and just stand up and say fuck you we're Democrats we're passing this without your votes and yes, we do take all the credit and all the blame. Then pass the rescue legislation then with Obama in the lead the health care the tax cuts the economy greening, etc.

Posted by PC | September 27, 2008 11:20 AM

If it is any consolation, AOL has a poll on it's front page showing that people thought McCain won. But AOL is very conservative and half the people who use the service either think it's totally different from that Internet thing, or that AOL *is* the Internet.

Posted by Schweighsr | September 27, 2008 11:28 AM

I think we forget the difference between a stump speech and a debate.

We've gotten used to Obama doing his stump speech, which he is very good at. And most of us vividly remember McCain's excruciating reading of teleprompters.

But if you remember back to the primary debates, Obama was never great then either. He gives good speech, but live at a debate, he struggled to keep up with Hillary (who is much worse at speeches). He did okay, but he never shined like he does when he gives a speech. Conversely, McCain did pretty good at the Republican primary debates. He's better on his feet than he is with a prepared speech.

So I expected them to be more evenly matched at the debate than they are during their campaign speeches.

But if you expected to see Obama kicking McCain's ass because Obama is so good at speeches and McCain is not, you would have been disappointed at the debate last night.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | September 27, 2008 11:39 AM

I think it can be explained by a combination of Post-Traumatic Kerry Loss Disorder (great term!), vicarious nervousness, and chronic liberal underestimation of the "average American".

Dan already explained the first factor perfectly. As for the second one - many of us are really attached to our candidate and identify with him. Last night, I was feeling as vicariously nervous for him as if he were a friend presenting in class or my lawyer Mom talking to a jury. We nitpick because we love.

Thirdly, I've never understood why we allow Republicans to coopt American archetypes like folksy wisdom, down-to-earth attitudes, or gut feelings. Working in neighborhood development has taught me that often, we wonks really ARE too wonky. People who I might have pegged as too unsophisticated to ask for input, often have nuanced perceptions of issues and are good at parsing BS.

Posted by raisedbywolves | September 27, 2008 11:41 AM

Tell you what: Rewind to January 2007 and explain to me, in strategic terms, how to get a black first-term senator named Barack Obama past Hillary Clinton and John McCain. My guess is that if we had 100 Slog commenters and Barack Obama in the room for that brainstorming meeting, exactly one person would know how to do that -- and it wouldn't be a Slog commenter.

I rarely wish to say: Leave it to him, he's smarter than we are. But we should, because he is.

Also: He knows far more than any of us do about negotiating the many racial, class and partisan codes that have to be spoken simultaneously in a setting like this. Not one in 10,000 people could walk that minefield as he has.

Posted by Andy James | September 27, 2008 11:44 AM

I know that Sloggers wanted Obama to go for the jugular, but foreign policy is McCain's strong point and Obama's weak one. In this debate, all Obama had to do was keep his head above water, which he did. McCain need to to stomp Obama, which he didn't.

If Obama had been too aggressive, there was a serious danger of digging himself into a hole that McCain could use to bury him and make his look naive. McCain just knows more about the subject, plain and simple.

Technically, I though McCain "won" the debate but his "win" did not hurt Obama. It might have even helped to see Obama withstand some strong blows from McCain.

I don't know if the Obama campaign had anything to do with it, but getting the foreign policy debate done first will only benefit Obama. The economy debate is the one where McCain is at a disadvantage. He has a history of admitting that economics is his weak point, and nobody has been impressed by how he's handled the current crisis. Obama can only look better in future debates.

I don't think we'll see any death blows coming from Obama; he's playing it sure and steady. Although he does need to stop saying "I agree with senator McCain."

Posted by JC | September 27, 2008 11:46 AM

I know that Sloggers wanted Obama to go for the jugular, but foreign policy is McCain's strong point and Obama's weak one. In this debate, all Obama had to do was keep his head above water, which he did. McCain need to to stomp Obama, which he didn't.

If Obama had been too aggressive, there was a serious danger of digging himself into a hole that McCain could use to bury him and make his look naive. McCain just knows more about the subject, plain and simple.

Technically, I though McCain "won" the debate but his "win" did not hurt Obama. It might have even helped to see Obama withstand some strong blows from McCain.

I don't know if the Obama campaign had anything to do with it, but getting the foreign policy debate done first will only benefit Obama. The economy debate is the one where McCain is at a disadvantage. He has a history of admitting that economics is his weak point, and nobody has been impressed by how he's handled the current crisis. Obama can only look better in future debates.

I don't think we'll see any death blows coming from Obama; he's playing it sure and steady. Although he does need to stop saying "I agree with senator McCain."

Posted by JC | September 27, 2008 11:49 AM

re: the SurveyUSA poll, the first question, "Did you watch the debate?"

there were ten people who "weren't sure" if they watched the debate?

really? how stupid are we?

Posted by thickturd | September 27, 2008 11:57 AM

Favourite exchange from the blogs todays.

D: "Has anyone ever lost after being 5 points up with only 40 days left?"

R: "Don't count your chickens before they hatch"

D: "Thanks to early voting they are already hatching"

I think it's already too late regardless of the debates. Although the Palin Biden one may be embarassing enough that the MSM narative changes to how big of a blow out it will be. They need a story and if it's not close they will go in for the kill and finish off McCain for us.

Posted by DavidC | September 27, 2008 11:58 AM

From James Fallows at the Atlantic:

Emotional messages, which are variants on "how do I feel about this person?", are all that matter in presidential debates. Issues discussions are significant mainly to the extent they shape these impressions. For instance: a candidate's view on the economy feeds the impression of whether he sympathizes with "people like me." Or views on foreign policy feed the impression on whether he would be "a leader we can trust."

Barring a truly disastrous performance, each side's partisans will think their candidate did well, and will be reinforced in the reasons for supporting the person they already like. Thus John McCain supporters will think he sounded confident and masterful; Obama supporters will think he kept presenting the big-picture perspective on national security and the economy. Which means therefore:

The audience that matters is people who start out undecided or uncertain -- and finally are looking for emotional reassurance about who they can imagine as president for the next four years. In general, such viewers are only now starting to pay serious attention to the campaign -- in contrast to people already committed to helping (or stopping) one of the candidates. That is why the first debate is a unique "re-launch" opportunity for the candidates to present themselves to people who realize it's time to make up their minds.
Everything John McCain did on stage last night was consistent with trying to score tactical points in those 90 minutes. He belittled Obama with the repeated "he doesn't understand"s; he was explicitly insulting to him in saying at the end "I honestly don't believe that Senator Obama has the knowledge or experience" for the job (a line Joe Biden dare not use so bluntly on Sarah Palin); and implicitly he was shockingly rude and dismissive in refusing ever to look Obama in the eye. Points scored -- in the short term, to the cheers of those already on his side.

Obama would have pleased his base better if he had fought back more harshly in those 90 minutes -- cutting McCain off, delivering a similarly harsh closing judgment, using comparably hostile body language, and in general acting more like a combative House of Commons debater. Those would have been effective tactics minute by minute.

But Obama either figured out, or instinctively understood, that the real battle was to make himself seem comfortable, reasonable, responsible, well-versed, and in all ways "safe" and non-outsiderish to the audience just making up its mind about him. (And yes, of course, his being a young black man challenging an older white man complicated everything he did and said, which is why his most wittily aggressive debate performance was against another black man, Alan Keyes, in his 2004 Senate race.) The evidence of the polls suggests that he achieved exactly this strategic goal. He was the more "likeable," the more knowledgeable, the more temperate, etc.

For years and years, Democrats have wondered how their candidates could "win" the debates on logical points -- that is, tactics -- but lose the larger struggle because these seemed too aggressive, supercilious, cold-blooded, or whatever. To put it in tactical/strategic terms, Democrats have gotten used to winning battles and losing wars. Last night, the Democratic candidate showed a far keener grasp of this distinction than did the Republican who accused him of not understanding it.

Posted by hal | September 27, 2008 12:12 PM

You Sloggers are delusional.

You're just the more frantic cousins of the cable-TV analysts who're all in the tank for Obama.

McCain came across very well. And if he was condescending towards Obama, he had reason to be so.

But, really, do you think Sloggers are in any way representative of mainstream America?

This is going to be a close race, and voters will decide that McCain likely will live to 77, not run for a second term, and then Hillary can take over.

In the end, they'll decide that Obama and his Ivy League friends who've been on the academic tit and like to talk about America over a fine glass of wine, is not who they want in the White House.

Posted by Mr. Astonished | September 27, 2008 12:26 PM

I had high expectations for Obama, he met them. I had low expectations for McCain, he exceeded them. For those that had no expectations, or at least none for Obama, he did better than McCain. For me, it seemed more like a tie because I expected so much more from Obama than I did from McCain. I half expected McCain to forget where he was or need to take a time out.

Posted by DJSauvage | September 27, 2008 12:26 PM

that you guys know nothing about how “average” Americans are going to view anything?

The flaw in this logic is that average Americans don't watch debates.

Posted by K | September 27, 2008 12:53 PM

I definitely had higher expectations for Obama since McCain is such a fucking liar. (There was a lot of TV-yelling: "don't let him get away with saying he supports the veterans when he voted against the GI Bill!" "Stop agreeing with him!") I thought the gloves would come off and then McCain would lose his temper and call him the n-word. (OK, not really, but a girl can dream, can't she?) After watching some snippets and reading the liveslog I thought McCain won since Obama kept saying he agreed with McCain and the rest would go over everyone's heads.

But when I saw the whole thing, I was struck by how visibly furious John McCain was. The not-looking at Obama was parsed a lot in the early morning news shows...was it contempt? was it guilt? what was it? It was total rage! All of McCain's body language and mannerisms were exuding the fury of someone used to getting their way and thwarted by someone thought to be inferior.


It was hard to watch McCain score so many points but I understand why Obama would come out ahead on the gut level. I even watched some Fox News to see what the enemy thought of it all, and they carped on Obama calling McCain "John" and McCain saying "Senator Obama" and basically expressing "you are not at my level, you are not worthy of debating, you do not understand." I'm so happy it seems to have backfired and McCain was somewhat revealed as the total prick we know him to be in private.

I think it's just not possible for McCain to be likable or appear trustworthy and calm (what matters at this point to undecideds) because he's too furious that he even has to DO this debate crap to get the keys to the White House. He really thought he could cast himself as last-minute savior of the economy and not even play this game. I just saw stifled rage all over him. And when the topic is war with Iran and nukes, you don't want to look like a petulant hothead who gets pissed over having to you know, show up to the first presidential debate.

So yeah, I agree that Obama is much smarter than we all are on Slog. McCain's refusal to engage in eye contact or first name banter threw him. But making that forceful point about being wrong only once made it that much more effective and sound bitey. If he'd said it as many times as McCain said "doesn't understand," even if it was all true, the analysis would only have picked up on "Obama said McCain was wrong a lot" instead of it being "Obama slammed McCain on being wrong ABOUT THE WAR" and then they play the clip. Brilliant!

Posted by threnody | September 27, 2008 1:05 PM

obama needs more zingers. he also needs more tv ads showing john mccain's horrible misquotes in the past on iraq, etc. in that fox news video the audience ate that shit up.

Posted by jrrrl | September 27, 2008 1:12 PM

Wow nice talking points!
But I am a little shocked at your news that cable news outlets like Fox were "in the tank for Obama."

Posted by Sad Comment | September 27, 2008 1:13 PM

obama won, all there is to it. mccain looked like a scared, uncomfortable child with the grimaces and blinking. sloggers need some confidence on this.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | September 27, 2008 1:21 PM

I agree with the general sentiment that Sloggers are way out of touch with the perceptions of the undecided or casual voter.

Remember Gore and Kerry crushing Bush on points in their debates? Who won in '00 and '08? The guy that 'merica wanted to pound a beer with. That guy ain't the Grampy McGrouchy we saw last night.

Obama's strategic performance was aided by Biden's after the debate. Watch the fun on Kos:

Posted by emma's bee | September 27, 2008 1:24 PM

Concerning personal expectations: I called it a tie because McCain didn't fall asleep.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | September 27, 2008 1:37 PM


I don't think it was just rage. I think McCain was intimidated by Obama and did his best to dress it up as contempt. Even if McCain was angry and contemptuous, he would have at least glanced at Obama during one of the times Obama spoke to him directly. McCain could barely even look Obama in the eye when they shook hands, a real sign of weakness and fear.

Posted by keshmeshi | September 27, 2008 1:54 PM

Well, I guess if nothing else, this was good evidence for me that you guys really do read the comments - a nice touch for the Slog I'd say.

On the issue, I probably did give you guys a bit too much shit about your interpretation of the debate, but having just read the Slogcast (or whatever it's called) of the debate after getting home from watching it myself (here in Nebraska) and then seeing some of these early polls, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to point out the disconnect. Also, there is a lot of criticism about some of the campaign's strategy that happens on here and while I respect all of you, I do think that the writers here too often forget that this is a highly organized campaign composed of the best and brightest minds in the non-Shrum Democratic Party. After the primaries, I'm willing to give them just a little more benefit of the doubt than some other liberals are about their strategy decisions. I think that they have a pretty good feel for what they need to do, with their candidate, at this time in the election and I'm willing to let them run the campaign (and not worry about whether they make me - a committed Obama voter - feel good). This obviously isn't the last two campaigns and we shouldn't act as though it is just because we're sick of losing.

I'll also add that I think the demeanor thing is way overlooked. A lot of how people vote is emotional and they had to look at those two guys last night and imagine which one they could imagine being on TV every day for the next 4 years. I think it's hard to argue that McCain didn't come off like a grumpy old fuck. Obama came across cool, thoughtful, tactful, respectful of his opponent, and trying to connect with the audience (minus the few professorial moments he needs to get past). Just like Bush was viewed as losing the first debate in 2004 because of his demeanor and body language (the 'smirk'), I had a strong suspicion that McCain would be viewed similarly last night.

I also think that the expectations issue is important. Leading up to these debates, a lot of commentators compared them to 1980 where Reagan had to assure the public that he had what it took to be president, despite their relative unfamiliarity with him. It seems to me that that was a pretty logical way to look at this debate and, just like 1980, more people than not realized that Obama passed the threshold they had yet to see him pass and that his "change" isn't as risky as they may otherwise have imagined.

I think your last "But" is a good start - acknowledging that you don't view the election as an "average American" would - but that should temper your "political analysis." And while I'm probably not much more of a fan of the "average American" than you are, if political analysis is going to mean something, then shouldn't it at least have something to do with what those people are actually thinking?

Posted by Ed | September 27, 2008 2:36 PM

I'm happy to hear that the polls are saying Obama won. However, he definitely needs better makeup people next time. Those dark circles and the menacing eyebrows made him look like Lurch.

Posted by leek | September 27, 2008 2:41 PM

Blah Blah Blah, all it takes is 51 out of 100 to win. Smarts, ability to speak, reason, debate skills, jumping rope and chewing gum at the same time skills will mean little if 51% vote for McCain. Americans don't vote for the BEST candidate they vote for the candidate that makes them FEEL good.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | September 27, 2008 3:05 PM

You guys are going to let the biased media tell you who won the debate? WTF? We sloggers know better. Obama lost the debate. Nuff said.

As for the biased media, they said Obama won only because he looks better on TV. That's all they care about. Superficial not substance.

No way in hell I could have been wrong about the debate. I reject your reality and substitute my own.

Posted by Medina | September 27, 2008 3:09 PM

Oh duh.

Sloggers are the bitchiest, crankiest, most cynical people on the planet, remember? McCain was bitchy and cranky, and what's more cynical thank picking Palin for Veep? So he won, according to the Slog hive. QED.

Has an election ever been decided on a VP debate before? We may be about to witness history being made. Of course we're all hoping for the Mother Of All Train Wrecks when Palin finally melts down to Miss South Carolina ("I believe..."), but the real issue is how many of the so-called "Average Americans" -- who will never stop believing Obama's a Muslim -- will actually vote.

Too cynical, or not cynical enough? Tough call.

Posted by MichaelPgh | September 27, 2008 3:47 PM

@35 I'm going to repeat that all Sarah Palin has to do is open her mouth and have words come out to exceed expectations. We're going to have to endure lots of fawning over whatever talking points she manages to pull out of her ass. "Boy, she really did her homework! Most people can't even find that country she named on a map, and she TOTALLY pronounced it right!"

Posted by threnody | September 27, 2008 3:58 PM

@20 I like that interpretation...of course that could play out even better if true...

Posted by threnody | September 27, 2008 4:03 PM

John Kerry won all three debates.

Posted by John Bailo | September 27, 2008 5:44 PM

Actually, @19, it's the Democrats who shouldn't count their chickens before they're hatched. Al Gore and John Kerry are both brilliant men who would have done a far better job running this country than Bush, but look who won. And while I'm glad Obama is up in the polls I don't think anyone has ever gone broke overestimating the intelligence of the average citizen of Jesusland. I won't be relieved until after I see Obama being sworn in at the inauguration ceremony in January.

Posted by RainMan | September 27, 2008 6:20 PM

"Kerry won all three debates" and he didn't even need to wear a wire like Bush did.

But Kerry lost the election and the country has been paying for it ever since.

Posted by Sad Comment | September 27, 2008 6:48 PM

@39 is right. as much as my fatigue wants this over, i don't think the outcome will be apparent until the polls close.

Like others, I spent the debate wanting in the worst way for Obama to lash out, Reagan style ("I bought this microphone!"), at McCain, and call him on the carpet for his immaturity and down-to-the-bone fraudulence. Once a couple of hours passed after the debate, I realized Obama pursued a much more effective strategy--avoid pettiness, give "John" the benefit of the doubt always, be reassuring and calm, and never, ever flash emotion. All those things that us Obama-philes, already convinced of his singular, once-in-a-Halleys-Comet talent, want him to do would scare away last night's target audience--the undecideds. Fact is, Obama does not have the privilege that a white man might have to show his true emotional colors. Fact is, middle-dwelling undecided types really are turned off by political gamesmanship and bickering. Obama was exceedingly well served in light of those two facts to say "John is right" as often as he did--it shows respect, fair-mindedness (John WAS right now and then, after all), and confidence. It makes him plausible as a President. This is very different from Gore and Kerry, both of whom also did not go for the jugular when their true believers wanted them to, but whose restraint did not serve them well.

Posted by fixo | September 27, 2008 6:52 PM

Eli, perhaps you shouldn't take so much stock in polls. Especially when you consider many people self-select by not answering the phone when pollsters call. CallerID is a wonderful thing.

Posted by pragmatic | September 27, 2008 8:25 PM

I'm a little surprised that the reason I thought Obama did better in the debate is because I'm an ignorant racist.
Lovely logic that.

Posted by Justin | September 28, 2008 1:20 AM

I think you're wrong about "articulate" signifying lowered expectations. Saying that Obama is "articulate" is not the same as saying, like Chris Rock joked, that "he speaks well." Obama is indeed exceedingly articulate, and offers answers that are very well thought through and based on sound reasoning. What most impresses me about any interview or debate I've seen Obama engage in has been how extraordinarily thoughtful he is - it's a quality that I find reassuring in a politician even when I disagree with him/her, and it's troubling how rare it is.

Posted by Adam | September 28, 2008 1:30 PM

We won't support NO-Bama and will redefeat him in November !! Go Hillary 2012 !!

Posted by clintonsarmy | September 28, 2008 2:25 PM

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