Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Presidential Debate II, and why the Slanders Won't Work

The second presidential debate has come and gone, and aside from the candidates mostly repeating the same stump speeches there really wasn't much to comment on on substance. Boring might be too strong a description, but not far off. Still there were some notable moments.

McCain's disdain for Obama couldn't have been more clear than when he pointed to him and said "that one". That one what John? That uppity one perhaps? And what was it with McCain roaming around while Obama was talking. With McCain's posture this seemed poor strategy: he looked like a little troll wandering around, especially at the end when he walked right in front of the camera as Tom Brokaw was signing off.

It was notable that McCain kept everything above the belt: no talk about Ayers, or Obama being a terrorist, or any of the other things that McCain's pit bull running mate has been spewing of late. Their strategy seems clear: have Palin attack Obama mercilessly with any slander she can find, while keeping her away from the press, who might ask troublesome questions, and have McCain play good cop. Palin has become just another McCain 527.

But it won't matter, and we got our indication of that during the debate if you were watching CNN as I was. There they had a running vote of undecided Ohio voters giving a positive or negative rating on a sliding scale based on what the candidate was saying. It was not surprising that Obama was getting the better of the average ratings, often going to the top of the positive, whereas McCain spent a lot of time around zero, or even negative. But what stood out was the difference in the way those undecided voters reacted when the candidates attacked each other.

When Obama attacked, it was a mixed bag: sometimes the rating would increase, others it would stay the same or drop a little. McCain's attacks, on the other hand, consistently caused his rating to drop considerably. This is all about credibility. When the voters heard the criticisms, they reacted based on who they believed, and it was never John McCain. All the lying, and subterfuge regarding Sarah Palin, has apparently caught up to the McCain campaign. They have no credibility any more. It doesn't matter what they accuse Obama of, no one will believe them. McCain gave up the one thing he wanted to be known for: straight talk. Now it's all crooked talk, and the voters have caught on. Only Obama can beat Obama now.

No comments: