First Presidential Debate Analysis

The first presidential debate was an impressive exchange between the two candidates. This debate was on foreign policy. Well, it was supposed to be. Jim Lehrer completely disregarded the rules governing this debate and decided that the first half should be on the economy. Now before the debate, I realized that given the current financial crisis we find ourselves in, obviously a little ammount of time should be spent on the candidates stances on the economy. I feel that about 20 minutes spent on the topic would have been fair. There are still two other debates, one of which is about domestic policy. This financial crisis is not just going to disappear. I feel Lehrer abused his privelege of choosing the questions, and let too much of the debate focus on economics. This is an unfair advantage for Obama, who is much weaker than John McCain at foreign policy.

All that being said, I still feel that McCain held his own in the debate over the economy. Both candidates talked around fully endorsing the current $700 billion dollar bailout. John McCain however, really stood out when he said his administration would consider a spending freeze. Obama on the other hand couldn’t name any changes he would make to deal with this $700 billion dollar expenditure. Obama did manage to come away from the debate leaving a strong impression with his “tax cuts for 95% of families” line. McCain on the other hand made a strong point by stating that the US has the 2nd highest tax on businesses, which drive businesses away from the US. Obama was afforded the ability to paint the current economic crisis as a result of Bush, McCain, republican policies. I felt as though McCain didn’t respond strongly enough to this attack. Overall, the economic half of the debate was mostly a wash between the two candidates.

The clear results of the debate began to come into perspective as the debate shifted to foreign policy. Obama seemed much more comfortable in the first half of the debate and began to lose his calm as the debate wore on. McCain called Obama out on a number of issues. He hit Obama particularly hard on his statement that he would meet with any leader of foreign country without preconditions, including Iran’s president Ahmadinejad. When McCain gave his hypothetical conversation between those two men, it was the slam dunk of the night. In terms of Iraq, McCain and Obama were almost debating two completely different points. Obama kept going back to the past and claiming we shouldn’t have gone to Iraq. It’s worth saying that Obama didn’t actually come out and say this but he just kept alluding to it. McCain on the other hand was discussing how the surge strategy he backed had turned the situation in Iraq around. I can’t get over how Obama can say the surge succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, but says he still wouldn’t have voted for it. Basically Obama is arguing he would have rather left Iraq at it’s worst, than take on the successful strategy. McCain should have attacked Obama harder on this point. Obama kept up his tired strategy of trying paint McCain as McBush. I don’t think this is an effective strategy, but some may disagree. McCain also took Obama out to the woodshed on Russia. He pointed out how Obama’s first statement on the Russian invasion of Georgia didn’t condemn Russia and told both countries to essentially “get along”. Obama had no choice but to agree with McCain over and over on the foreign policy debate. This really showed who was the master of the subject and who was the student. I think it is clear that McCain came out on top in the debate over foreign policy. This is why I dont think it was fair that it was only half of the debate.

It was interesting to watch the other candidates faces while one candidate was speaking. McCain typically laughed at remarks by Obama which he felt we false while at times Obama just looked pissed or would try to talk over McCain. For McCain being painted as the “angry old white guy” I acutally got the impression that Barack was more angry. Also, Jim Lehrer looked like a fool with his googly eyes. Although the debate wasn’t a blowout, McCain won handily, as he should in a foreign policy debate. Obama just isnt as good without a teleprompter. Neither candidate made any major blunders, which can cause a blowout. The media was annoying as ever after the debate. Since Obama didn’t win, they decided they could just call it a tie. I have strong hopes for McCain’s next debate with Obama. It will be hosted by Tom Brokaw on October 7th. This will be a town-hall format debate which McCain excells at. I will more than likely write an analysis for that debate as well. Please post any comments on the debate, my analysis, or presidential politics you feel inclined to share.

Grades: I have graded each candidate for their performance. Substance deals with presenting ideas which are backed up with substantial facts, data, history, etc. Demeanor is how well the candidate presented themselves. Attacks are how well the candidate attacked the other candidate. Rebuttals are how well the candidate responded to the attacks of the other candidate. All these are rated on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the best. I also gave an overall score, which is not an average of the above categories.


Substance: 9Demeanor: 7Attacks: 8Rebuttals: 6Overall: 8


Substance: 4Demeanor: 6Attacks: 7Rebuttals: 5Overall: 6