I firmly believe Obama lost the election last night. Here’s why:
Obama was the one in need of the game changing moment, not McCain. In fact, I think everyone, but Karl Rove, seems to be viewing this debate in exactly the opposite way that it is actually playing out.
There are several underlying points that are as plain as day, but no one seems to be taking notice. But keep in mind an important thing. This debate wasn’t one that McCain needed to come out guns blazing. Not in this format. He needed to look the part of a steady hand, an understanding but firm leader, and someone that gets it. He did just that.
Now let’s walk through why I think Obama just lost the election:First, Obama’s current poll status (if you fully believe them) is now predicated on what I believe is independents settling for Obama. In other words, they see him as someone who can play the part just enough. This was already being factored into the state of the race over the summer, and was solidified during the first debate. Obama didn’t shine then, but he didn’t have to. He just had to look just enough the part to pass. He did.
Second, it all changed after the Palin/Biden debate and punched home with McCain’s comments two days ago. These messages questioning Obama’s judgment on his alliances/associations and his lies regarding the mortgage mess (and just about anything else he says) struck a nerve and will force these same independents to rethink whether Obama is worth their vote.
NOTE: Let me say before going forward, other than the PUMA’s/Blue Dog Democrats out there that won’t vote for Obama no matter the reason, support among the base for each candidate is solidified. However, the vast middle (where most undecideds are) remains largely center-right.
Third, Obama needed to find a way to demonstrate last night that these new/refreshed charges by the McCain camp are unfounded, unfair, and wrong. He didn’t. The pressure was actually on Obama do more than just “play it safe.” He needed a game changing moment to inspire the electorate to vote for him and all McCain had to do was look competent/caring on economic issues. This was actually one of his best debates I’ve ever seen (despite it being the one that likely put even insomniacs to sleep).
Here’s why this debate was so devastating for Obama: in his rush to look moderate he now looks and feels like every other politician out there. He’s not the inspiring candidate for change any longer. He’s just another guy running for office.
Here’s why that’s a problem. It creates an even playing field. And when you factor in the problems the entire world is facing: economic, political, religious (terrorism), what you have is a situation where leadership and experience end up carrying the day. Couple that with how Palin and McCain are now (and I think at the right moment) going after Obama hard on his judgment (decisions, associations, positions, mortgage mess, etc.), you now have a playing field where Obama (who looked like someone people could settle for) begins looking more and more like a dangerous/untested pick.
In the end, I think nearly all of the conservative pundits have it wrong. They think McCain didn’t hit the home run last night and that because of that he didn’t change the face of this race. Therefore, McCain loses. I firmly believe this could not be more opposite of reality.
Obama needed to hit the ball out of the park. He was the one that couldn’t just play it safe. Obama is the one that had to prove he is more than the generic politician he’s been running as for the past two months. He didn’t. For this reason, and it will become clearer over the next week, Obama has actually lost this election.
Watch the Obama campaign for the signs. They’re going to become increasingly desperate in their attacks and talking points, to the point of near insanity.
I’m going to go back to something Karl Rove talked about last night. He clearly saw the debate for what it was, a moment in time for McCain to set up his campaign for the final run. We saw it during the debate. We had a few hard jabs at the beginning, the development of a stronger economic message (despite the new mortgage proposal – which I think conservatives will generally cringe over, but independents will think as caring), the framework for deeper attacks on Obama on his judgment and the issues, and a clear demonstration of Obama’s weakness on foreign policy (boy was Obama in trouble each time he had to answer the question before McCain – it was near incoherent mush).
McCain successfully set up his campaign for the next four weeks. Obama for the first time felt boring and old. The only semi-inspiring moment was when he talked about health insurance and his mom. Other than that, it was a wasted night for Obama.