Why McCain won tonight

This diary is going to attract a lot of trolls screaming about how Obama destroyed McCain tonight. And a lot of our posters and front pagers also think that this debate was “unhelpful” to McCain.

Let’s dispense with the obvious. Obama looked and sounded better than McCain. He came across and polished in his diction and tone. If you didn’t listen to his words, you could picture President Obama standing up there. McCain on the other hand seemed fidgety and repeated his catch phrase “my friends” way too often. If we are voting for the National Speaker, clearly Obama is the correct choice.But that is not what wins elections. The key at this time is reaching the undecideds and the weak supporters with information that lets them make a decision. They don’t vote based on debate performance, otherwise we would be deciding whether or not to give President Kerry another four years.

This debate put a LOT of information in front of the voters, and it is going to take them some time to process what they heard. Obama ducked a lot of questions and did not provide specifics. Even after McCain egged him on to specify how much the fine for not having healthcare would be, he still didn’t answer.

This is a problem for Obama. His campaign has been geared toward not having to be specific and not be pinned down. But he was pinned down on a lot of things he didn’t want to be pinned down on. On topics like taxes, healthcare and protecting Israel, he had to take a specific position, and that position will either contradict the preferred policy position of supporters, or contradict previous statements.

On the other hand, McCain did provide specifics of his positions, something that he needs to do for his campaign. Now some of those positions, like buying up mortgages, are going to create a lot of discussion (or gnashing of teeth) on our side of the political spectrum, but it was important for him to get that information to those that haven’t made up their minds.

I took a couple things from the Luntz group. Slightly more than half thought Obama won. But slightly more than half thought McCain did better on the economy. They processed style and delivery, and scored Obama the winner. But on specifics they thought McCain was better.

In the end, McCain was able to execute his campaign’s strategy, while Obama worked against his. This will cost Obama.