For the second time in a week, we had a candidate debate where most of the professional handicappers saw it one way, but voters seem to have seen it another way. And in both cases, that’s good news for the Obama-Biden ticket.
The consensus pundi-reaction to last Friday’s Obama-McCain debate was that the GOPer “won on points,” but the polls judged it an Obama win. And the exceptionally low expectations for Sarah Palin made her fluid performance last night a win or a draw, according to most accounts. But as this morning’s staff post indicated, both undecided voters and the general public thought Joe Biden did better.
What seems to be happening is that voters are beginning to interpret events like debates through the filter of increasingly settled preferences. A lot of them shake their heads just like I do the thirtieth time John McCain or Sarah Palin uses the word “maverick.” The Republican candidates did most definitely avoid any sort of disastrous mistakes in this round of debates, but that’s about all you can say for them.
There is, of course, a full month left in this very long campaign, and it’s clear the McCain campaign is about to launch the Mother of All Negative Campaigns as soon as the immediate financial crisis abates, if it ever does. But with early voting already under way in a number of key states, opinions are beginning to settle, with Obama in the lead.
UPCATEGORY: Democratic Strategist
In the Couric interview, Palin mangled her talking points so badly that all anybody noticed noticed was the mangling itself; the points themselves receded into the background. Her much-improved performance last night, though, had the paradoxical effect of throwing the weakness of the GOP message in this election cycle into sharper relief.
The bottom line in both our takes is that voters are beginning to react to what the candidates are saying, in a critical way, instead of focusing, as the handicappers always do, on how they say it. The steak really does ultimately matter more than the sizzle.