Diary

Tougher Than Expected

It appears that Saddleback and its aftermath rocked David Gergen back on his heels:

Heading into the candidates’ appearances on Saturday night at Saddleback Church, the conventional wisdom in politics was Barack Obama should have a clear upper hand in any joint appearance with John McCain — one the young, eloquent, cool, charismatic dude who can charm birds from the trees, the other the meandering, sometimes bumbling, old fellow who can barely distinguish Sunnis from Shiias.

Well, kiss that myth goodbye.

McCain came roaring out of the gate from the first question and was a commanding figure throughout the night as he spoke directly and often movingly about his past and the country’s future. By contrast, Obama was often searching for words and while far more thoughtful, was also less emotionally connective with his audience.

McCain’s performance was commanding enough that anti-McCain sites are now claiming to have something approaching irrefutable proof that McCain somehow got fed the questions in advance and that this was the only possible way he could have done well. Of course, if the authors of these sites knew anything about McCain, they would be aware of the fact that he excels in the townhall setting and these complaints are ever-so-reminiscent of the claims in 2004 that George W. Bush was getting answers fed to him via an earpiece and a communicator worn under his suitcoat during the 2004 Presidential debates, so they are kind of hard to take seriously.

But if the anti-McCain sites and the Obama campaign are indeed confident that McCain had answers fed to him and that he would not do well if he did not somehow have access in advance to debate questions and possible answers, then I am left to wonder why it is that Barack Obama continues to refuse to appear in townhall settings with John McCain. I mean, surely Obama will have no problem whatsoever taking McCain in such a setting. Why hasn’t such a debate taken place yet and why is the Obama campaign so averse to one taking place? If the McCain campaign’s wishes were granted, we would have had a bunch of townhall debates by now, after all.