Overall, McCain didn’t get the “game changer” that he was looking for in this debate. He spent more time (again) attacking Obama than he did outlining his policies. He frequently was condescending to Obama when he responded to points he didn’t agree with, unlike Obama, who stayed on message and stayed polite the whole night. McCain also kept bringing up a supporter named “Joe The Plumber,” tonight’s euphemism for “ordinary people,” again trying to subtly portray Obama (and by extension, his supporters) as outside foreigners meddling in the affairs of Joe Six Pack, hockey moms etc. Obama skillfuly addressed Joe The Plumber (JTP) later in the debate and McCain had trouble incorporating it any more in his arguments. (There does happen to be a Joe The Plumber in Amarillo, TX – www.joetheplumber.com – maybe McCain was hoping he could unclog his campaign.) Here are some points that I noted as the debate progressed:
9:03 Why does McCain always write things down before the debate really starts?
9:04 McCain looks uncomfortable
9:09 Obama gets the first laugh of the night for saying that McCain has been watching too many of his own ads
9:11 McCain accuses Obama of “class warfare” without much explanation
9:13 McCain again uses his poor comparison to Ireland re: tax rates
9:17 Schieffer is popping in and out of the frame of the video and it’s distracting
9:20 Obama brings up the Bush deficits
9:21 McCain says he’s not President Bush; annoyed at Obama bringing up that McCain voted for Bush’s budgets
9:23 Obama gets the second laugh for saying even Fox News disputes one of McCain’s accusations
9:27 McCain brings up Rep. John Lewis’s remarks about the McCain campaign
9:31 more Joe The Plumber references from McCain
9:32 Obama restates his mild repudiation of Rep. Lewis’ comments
9:35 Obama staying on track with emphasizing his focus on policy change vs. McCain mudslinging
9:37 Obama clearly and succinctly refutes the allegations against him re: Ayers and ACORN
9:40 McCain refuses to accept Obama’s statements
9:44 McCain says Palin’s husband is a tough guy too (??!!??) in response to a question about running mates.
9:48 McCain comes across as condescending frequently in these debates as he just did answering a question about energy policy
9:52 McCain takes a jab at Obama saying he never traveled south of the border and he would understand it better if he did. Neither have I so I guess I can’t say anything more.
9:53 Obama counters with “I understand it pretty well”
9:56 McCain comparing Obama to Herbert Hoover again
9:58 Obama outlining his health plan
10:00 More Joe The Plumber about health care (it’s getting real old by now) claiming Joe will get fined under Obama’s health care plan
10:01 Obama addresses Joe personally and says Joe will play no fines as McCain claims; McCain stunned, can’t believe it.
10:03 McCain says Joe is rich now. Wishes him congratulations.
10:05 McCain (accidentally?) calls Obama, “Senator Government”
10:09 Schieffer pressing McCain on whether he would appoint a Supreme Court justice who supports abortion rights
10:13 McCain brings up some of Obama’s votes about abortion in the Illinois State Senate which Obama has to address – a frequent tactic of McCain. Obama again skillfuly addresses the accusations.
10:16 Last question about education
10:18 Obama outlining his strategies for improving the education system including emphasizing the role of the parents (yay!)
10:19 McCain starts his response with something about civil rights and equal access to schools apparently in relation to charter schools
10:21 Obama says the Bush administration left the money behind with No Child Left Behind
10:27 McCain giddily sneaks in the last response before closing statements emphasizing his support for school vouchers
10:28 McCain – I’m a reformer, you can trust me, I’m in a “long line of McCain’s” serving their country.
10:30 Obama – We live with failed policies. We need tax cuts for middle class, health care and better education. “It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be quick … [but] I’m sure we can do it.”