Scoring the Debate

Well, it was an interesting debate on Friday. 

I must admit that I didn’t watch all of it.  I kept switching back and forth with the Red Sox game.  Probably should have stuck with just the debate.

Even so, I watched the majority of it.  It was intriguing to watch.  Two very different styles and tacts at play on a national stage.  On the whole, I call it a draw.  Neither candidate landed a “knock out blow,” or really grabbed the lead.  In part this may have been due to the moderator.

Let me take a moment to praise Jim Lehrer.  He is perhaps the last true jouranlist in mass media.  He played no favorites, and did his utmost best to keep the candidates on topic, and on time.  He even went so far as to “forcefully” cut off the candidates when they started into lengthy off topic expositions.  This was a very refreshing change from previous debates where various moderators would favor one candidate, or just allow them to ramble on and on. 

The back and forth between McCain and Obama was for the most part solid.  There were a few instances where Obama became petulant, and McCain got testy, but those were exceptions.  Even so, nothing new was forthcoming out of this debate.  In general it was the same old rhetoric, though McCain did float the concept of a spending freeze on the Federal Budget.  There was nothing new from Obama.

Stylistically, neither candidate got on a roll.  Obama was hurt by the time limits, and Lehrer’s strict adherence to them.  So he never got a rhythm going.  What works for rallies and stump speaches doesn’t work in a debate format.  In addition, Obama never got his thoughts together fast enough to really make a point.  Too many hems and haws and pregnant pauses.  So while he looked good on stage, he never quite got to conveying his positions.

McCain suffered from being unable to keep consistent in his style.  He avered between speaking to the audience (and the TV audience at large), and schooling Obama.  Responding to one question he would speak to America, laying out his positions, and in the next he would be scolding Obama like a teacher to an inattentive student. 

This debate as not going to sway anyone one way or another.  People will take away what they want to from this.  Obama followers will cro about how wonderful Obama looked and how he was smooth on stage.  McCain supporters will state that Obama showed his naivetee and inexperience, and just threw out buzz words with no substance.  Independents and undecideds will still be so.