Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
DEBATE LIVEBLOGGING....Finally. Our last presidential debate. After the last debate a reader emailed to warn me against being so grumpy, and I'll try. After all, I don't turn 50 for another few days yet. So on with the show!
Wrapup: I know I'm partisan, but McCain seemed completely out of his depth tonight. He was flitting from point to point all night without ever putting together a coherent argument, and then grabbing miscellaneous attacks from the rolodex in his head whenever some bright idea popped into his mind. His energy level was weirdly erratic, tired at times but then suddenly perking up whenever he got annoyed by something and remembered some zinger that he wanted to fire off.
McCain also interrupted a lot, and when he did he seemed clearly upset. That really didn't sound presidential. I'm sure McCain thought he was "scoring points" all evening, but his points were disjointed and often inappropriate. I really don't think this kind of thing goes over well, especially when it's sustained for 90 minutes.
Finally, McCain's facial expressions were truly bizarre. He went from angry to annoyed to smug to laughing to grumpy to grinning and then went through the cycle all over again. It was very, very weird.
As for Obama, he was fine. He didn't break through in any way, but he didn't need to. He held his own and that's probably all he needed.
UPDATE: CNN insta-poll says Obama won the debate 58%-31%. CBS poll of uncommitted voters says Obama won 53%-22%.
In the CNN poll, McCain's unfavorables went up four points after the debate. I'm not surprised. The CNN panel seems to think that McCain showed a lot of "energy," but I just don't think it came across that way most of the time. I think it came across as jumpy, seething, and, yes, erratic. Not good.
10:25 McCain's plastic grin is totally weirding me out.
10:23 Now McCain is talking up vouchers. Whew.
10:21 This is the second time Obama has dissed teachers unions. I guess that's his version of a Sister Souljah moment or something.
10:19 McCain is promoting charter schools but not vouchers. What kind of conservative does he think he is?
10:17 I haven't really been watching the audience-o-meter during this debate. I guess I'm already bored with it. But everyone sure loves Obama's education plan!
10:14 Who is McCain looking at while Obama is talking? He really seems like he's exchanging looks with someone in the audience. It's weird.
10:11 McCain frequently talks in a sort of code. Obama just mentioned the Ledbetter case, and when McCain's rebuttal came up he very quickly said something about "statute of limitations" and "trial lawyer's dream" and then immediately moved on. But did anyone watching know what he was talking about?
10:09 Now a strong defense of Roe v. Wade from Obama. Obviously he thinks this is a winning stand.
10:07 I think McCain just said he'd be willing to nominate a judge who supports Roe v. Wade but then ten seconds later said he wouldn't. But I'm not sure.
10:06 The average cost of a healthcare plan is $5,800? Maybe for an individual it is, but McCain's $5,000 tax credit is for an entire family. After that misrepresentation McCain then moves on to a spiel about big government big spending you should choose your own plan yada yada yada.
10:05 Back to Joe the Plumber! Enough!
10:02 Obama's discussion of McCain's plan started out slow, but improved when he just made a straight comparison of $5,000 and $12,000.
10:00 McCain is now going on about fines and single-payer. I don't think most people know what he's talking about.
9:58 Obama's response on healthcare is pretty effective. He told a very coherent story in just a minute or two. McCain, in response, is jumping from one unrelated point to another. It's like a completely random collection of healthcare points lifted in random order from his website.
9:55 Now McCain jumps from the Colombian trade agreement to Obama wanting to sit down with Hugo Chavez. Then suddenly Obama is Herbert Hoover. I'm suffering from whiplash listening to him
9:51 McCain is bashing Obama for opposing the Colombian trade agreement. Then he rattles off some stuff about Obama never traveling south of the border and Colombia being our best ally in the war on drugs. This does not strike me as an effective line of attack. Joe the Plumber just doesn't care.
[UPDATE: A friend whose husband is a plumber emails to say that plumbers do indeed care about Colombia. "Chuck says that his local has been diligent about informing the members about the murders of union organizers in Colombia." I stand corrected!]
9:47 McCain thinks Canadian oil is OK. Good to hear! Then he jumps suddenly to a weird attack related to NAFTA. McCain seems completely unable to mount a coherent statement on a single subject. He just flits from attack to attack.
9:45 McCain responds with a rambling, irritable attack on Obama for always wanting to increase spending. Lame.
9:43 Obama managed to turn a question about Sarah Palin into an observation that we should increase spending on autism research but we can't do it if we have an across-the-board spending freeze. Pretty slick.
9:40 McCain says we need to know the real truth about Bill Ayers but he himself isn't going to bring it up. No sirree. Jeebus. He's really lame at attack politics when he's face to face with Obama.
9:38 McCain just can't seem to wipe that weird smug smile off his face while Obama is talking.
9:35 Now McCain suddenly interrupts to say that he doesn't care about Bill Ayers but that Obama should address it anyway. ACORN too. Obama is obviously eager to have this brought up.
9:33 Obama is now trying to bait McCain into bringing up Bill Ayers. Instead McCain is telling us that the people who come to his rallies are the most patriotic Americans around. Huh?
9:31 McCain could hardly contain himself while Obama was talking about Congressman Lewis. Looks bad. Looks cranky and angry.
9:27 Bob Schieffer just practically begged McCain to bring up Bill Ayers. But McCain isn't taking the bait.
9:23 Obama giving "credit" to McCain for his position on torture, whether it's deserved or not, was a very good debating move. It makes him the alpha monkey at the table.
9:20 McCain: "We can take a hatchet and a scalpel to the budget." Not only doesn't this make sense, it really, really doesn't make sense.
9:17 On the other hand, McCain is just incoherent on the subject of program cuts. But then he changes gears and goes full bore for an across-the-board spending freeze. (Though he forgot to say "except for a bunch of stuff I don't want to freeze.") Then he's back to earmarks, including the projector for the planetarium in Chicago. Sheesh.
9:15 Only 15 minutes in and already Bob Schieffer wants to know what programs we're going to cut since we're headed into a recession. Shades of Herbert Hoover. Unfortunately, Obama appears to be unwilling to fight back against this nonsense.
9:12 McCain is lying about the corporate tax rate again. And he's doing it with the creepy smile he pastes on whenever he knows he's lying. (For the record: no, we don't have the 2nd highest corporate tax rate in the world. Our official rates are high, but there are so many exemptions in the corporate tax code that the actual rate is about average.)
9:11 Is "Joe the Plumber" going to be the new "Joe Sixpack"?
9:09 Now Obama is back to tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. I guess that's politics, but I really hate seeing a liberal campaigning that way.
9:07 What was with McCain's little eyebrow raise when he mentioned the name "Joe Wurzelbacher"?
9:06 I've been less than thrilled with the fact that Obama has been campaigning so heavily on tax cuts, and I'm happy to see that although he's still doing it, he's also emphasizing other aspects of his economic plan fairly heavily too. That's the right place to be.
9:04 Right off the bat, McCain is blaming Fannie and Freddie for the subprime crisis. What a douchebag.
8:59 CNN has their squiggly lines again, of course, which are designed to measure the reaction of their focus group participants to the debate. But that's not good enough. In 2012 I want 30 volunteers watching the debate from inside an MRI machine to find out what they really think about the candidates.