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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Second Debate Surprises

I and others here at TDS will probably have more to say tomorrow on tonight’s second presidential debate, but for the moment I will just mention some surprises.
Number one was McCain’s decision to spring a new mortgage buyout/renegotiation proposal. I’m sure we’ll find out more details soon, including some that make the proposal less ambitious than it sounds. But it had to create some vast heartburn in ConservativeWorld. Remember that Republicans in Congress and in the administration fought tooth and nail, and successfully, during the bailout negotiations to fight a Democratic proposal to let bankruptcy judges have mortgage rate and principal renegotiation powers. Now McCain’s talking about a wholesale renegotiation system that will go far beyond people in bankruptcy. Go figure.
Number two, of course, was McCain’s failure to follow the strategy that his campaign and his running-mate had signled as its last, best hope to win: attacking Obama’s “radical” views and associations. Over at The Corner tonight, there was considerable apoplexy that the names “Ayers” and “Wright” didn’t come up. Maybe McCain’s decided to let others make that case, while pretending he has nothing to do with it.
Number three, which was probably less a surprise than a disappointment, was how boring the whole thing was, and how poor a job Tom Brokaw did as moderator. Aside from his tiresome hectoring about time constraints, and his arbitrary decisions about who got follow-up questions, Brokaw seemed to have picked the blandest questions imaginable from the many at his disposal. One question that he chose and then amplified was heavily loaded, stipulating a gigantic Social Security crisis that most Democrats deny.
Number four, which was a pleasant surprise, was how Obama managed to get across a couple of important but complex points despite struggling against the many attacks McCain threw into his path. One was about the national marketplace for health insurance that McCain would create, which would have the effect of allowing insurers to evade current state regulations on preexisting conditions and mandated coverage generally. This is a really big deal (He probably shouldn’t, however, have cited the home state of his running-mate, banking paradise Delaware, as an analogy).
Surprise number five is that unless I somehow missed it, McCain did not utter the word “maverick” (or for that matter, refer to his mavericky running-mate). This omission undoubtedly ruined a lot of debate drinking games. On the other hand, those who were playing a drinking game based on the number of times McCain said “My friends” were unconscious by the mid-point.

One comment on “Second Debate Surprises

  1. velocipede on

    The biggest surprise to me was that McCain mostly managed not to come off as a jerk, except when he referred to Obama as “that one.” Using that kind of degrading reference to Obama might have been effective if most people still viewed Obama as “the other,” but McCain has captured that position in the eyes of many already it seems.
    I would also note the appearance of the debate, even though I think everyone should vote on the issue. Tuning out the words, McCain looks like he trying to sell a car while Obama looks like he owns the dealership. In a time of crisis, people are going to turn toward a leader who inspires confidence at both conscious and unconscious levels.


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