Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Live Blog and Open Thread: 2nd Presidential Debate: Town Hall Meeting

11:05pm: Folks, I'm off to plug in a few straggling polls to the data set for the electoral college. I'll be back mid-morning with an update. The comments section remains open, but I just don't think we witnessed anything tonight that is going to shake this race up in any noticeable way.

10:51pm: Obama is still working the room. Did McCain head off to a Palin-type rally like the Alaska governor attended after last week's vice presidential debate in St. Louis?

10:41pm: Wrap up. Well, if you were looking for a game changer, this wasn't it. I think McCain was certainly in his element tonight. But, in the end, he just didn't do enough to turn this thing around. I will say this: He did avoid the angry trap, but his trademark sarcasm reared its head a couple of times. Not to the extent that it did in those back and forths with Romney in the winter, but still it was there. McCain stressed a steady hand, and I thought Obama's performance was just that. Does a debate performance project White House success? Absolutely not, but that was an ironic twist to this: that Obama's performance was steady. McCain has left the building but Obama remains. He's talking with the guy who asked the Israel question now, the military vet. This is strange. Obama is still there working the crowd, but McCain has literally left the building. C-SPAN even found it necessary to come on and announce that they weren't following Obama around on purpose. Indeed.

10:37pm: Back on C-SPAN Brokaw's mike is still on. He is overheard saying, "You see what I was up against," no doubt referring to the timing issues that plagued this debate.

10:34pm: McCain has the last word and stresses the need for a steady hand. Both candidates block Brokaw's teleprompter trying to shake hands as the moderator tries to wrap things up. A light moment to end the debate; an otherwise tame affair. Brian Williams just called past town halls "boisterous." This one didn't pass that bar. I assume he was referring to 1992 or the infamous "chest bump" debate of 2000. Well, that's what George W. Bush thought Gore might do. If you haven't seen it, google, "Debating Our Destiny" and watch PBS's documentary on past debates. What am I? I'm the blogger here. Above is that link.

10:29pm: Last question: "What don't you know and how will you learn it?" Obama treats it like a closing statement and leans on the biographical section of his stump speech, stressing opportunity and change. McCain asks what will happen here and abroad? Read: Obama is a risky choice. And he, too, moves into the biography segment of his stump speech. But at least he sort of answered the question.

10:25pm: From the audience: If Iran attacks Israel will you commit troops to defend them? McCain: Pressure Iran with joint sanctions from the Allies. Obama: Focuses on a nuclear Iran. But says military options are not off the table. But he doesn't specify whether he's talking about the questioner's particular hypothetical.

10:23pm: Brokaw: Is Russia still the Evil Empire under Putin? McCain: Maybe. Can't say yes or no. A pretty good answer.

10:19pm: On to Russia. Again with the KGB Putin line? Alliances against Russia sounds a bit like the Cold War. Obama: Protecting former Soviet satellites is important. Was Poland a Soviet satellite? Now, it was under communist control, but was it a satellite?

10:18pm: A lot has been made of Obama saying, "he's absolutely right" about McCain in the first debate, but Obama McCain just said Obama was right on Afghanistan.

10:16pm: And now a Brokaw follow up. This time on Afghanistan. "Briefly, if you can," Brokaw adds. British commander: an acceptable dictator. Obama stresses democracy.

10:13pm: And we're bending the rules now on time. A follow up. Obama asks for one and McCain calls for equal time. Obama goes after McCain on "Bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb, bomb Iran," as an example of McCain not "speaking softy and carrying a big stick." This bickering is not a positive here. Who will get the blame if this is a highlight of the debate? Obama asked for the follow up, but McCain gets the last word.

10:10pm: McCain has two heroes. First, Reagan and now Teddy Roosevelt. And he moves into an attack on Obama announcing he'd attack Pakistan. Like the first debate, "I've been there." This time to Waziristan.

10:08pm: Ooh, Pakistan. And it cuts right to the heart of an Obama statement on going in to get terrorists there. This should be good.

10:06pm: McCain is going the experience route here. Calling for a steady hand and judgment and that Obama is a risk for decisions like the withdrawal call, pre-surge.

10:04pm: Brokaw: Let's see if we can figure out the Obama doctrine or the McCain doctrine.

...for intervening in humanitarian causes when US security is not at stake.

10:00pm: Keeping the world peace. Does the economic situation affect the US's ability to do this? Well, Obama doesn't understand foreign policy according to McCain. "We don't have time for on the job training." Obama admits he doesn't understand.

...why the US invaded a country that wasn't a part of 9-11. Clever. Also clever? Pivoting to the amount of money being spent in Iraq and how that affects the US domestically.

9:58pm: In my best Dwight Schrutte voice: Question. Why is it Sarah Palin was made fun of on SNL the other night for cutting off the Gs on -ing words in last week's debate? Obama does it too. I may have answered my question already. Ha!

9:55pm: Health care, privilege, right or responsibility? McCain leans toward people having the freedom to choose what they want. Obama says it is a right.

9:53pm: McCain plays the "He will fine you" game. Arizona and Tennessee are neighbors now? "If you cross over the state line" and like what's offered in Arizona and not Tennessee...

9:50pm: Next question: health care coverage and costs. I crunched numbers all weekend, but I got to catch enough of the news to catch this "He giveth with one hand and taketh with the other" line from Obama on what he calls McCain's plan to tax this stuff.

9:48pm: "You know who voted for that. That one," motioning to Obama. Oh, and it was a Bush plan on an energy bill loaded with goodies. That "that one" part will be analyzed later in the MSM. This all sounds like Senate inside baseball to me.

9:47pm: Brokaw again on the time issue. This will be a long one. They have to make up for not doing a series of these over the summer, right?

9:46pm: But Obama also goes after McCain on drilling.

9:44pm: On to climate change. In this corner, nuclear. McCain has been on a ship with nuclear power and insists it is safe. In that corner, opportunity. Obama touts green jobs.

9:42pm: McCain is energized and sharp here in referring back to one of the earlier questioners.

9:40pm: "It's not that hard to fix Social Security," says McCain. Of course that followed, "I'll answer the question." Ah, another commission to solve problems.

9:37pm: Second internet question? Entitlements (social security and Medicare). Brokaw adds to the question by asking if action is possible within two years. Obama doesn't sign on to the two year thing, but does say he will address it in his first term. He had better hope the Democrats retain control of Congress in 2010 if he wins. Otherwise the first term thing will be tough. It will be even if the Dems hold control in 2010, perhaps.

9:35pm: Has McCain not learned from his Republican primary debates? That sarcasm never served him well. Obama is now proposing a tax increase and is a protectionist. Well, we'll get to that McCain promises.

9:30pm: Obama uses 9-11 to talk about a call to service in the US. Who bet on Obama bringing up 9-11 first? Whoever it was is not in the midst of an economic crisis anymore.

9:28pm: Ooh, the first internet question.

...from a 78 year old. Awesome!

Again with the projector. By the end of the night this will be the most famous planetarium projector in the world. This planetarium will be well off after this.

9:27pm: Alright. No split screens on C-SPAN. I'm off to HD land.

9:25pm: McCain gets the first crack at the first year priorities follow up for discussion time. He goes with energy and health care. Obama? Energy? Check. That one's tops. And education. And "our records"? Obama pivots to a discussion on taxes. I think he's gone over a minute here. Brokaw thinks so too.

9:22pm: "Most liberal big spender." Now there it is. I really thought Palin would be the one to do it, but hey here it is. And examples: a projector for a Chicago planetarium.

9:21pm: Scratch that. Cynicism is alright. McCain used it too. Maybe I'm too PC. Uh oh.

9:20pm: Twenty minutes in, I've got to say both candidates like this format.

9:18pm: How can we trust either of you to deal with the economy? Obama wades into the firestorm first. "I understand your frustration and cynicism." I would have steered clear of that last one. But I'm typing on a computer now, not in front of those folks.

9:16pm: Worse before it gets better? Obama says no and that revamping the regulation regime is a must. McCain? "Depends on what we do." Clever way to bring up this "risky choice argument" that the McCain campaign has been making about Obama.

9:14pm: Obama lets it go to directly address the questioner. Or not. Here comes Obama's side on the Fannie/Freddie charge from McCain. "I need to correct" McCain..."not surprisingly." Not surprisingly, Obama touts the deregulation charge. And we've traded barbs on Fannie/Freddie. McCain's lobbyist consultants have ties as well.

9:12pm: I'll be interested to see if Obama responds to McCain bring up the campaign suspension. Obama and his cronies? Obama is smiling.

9:10pm: There may be a dead horse in the room in Nashville. This "fundamentals" thing has been run into the ground. But hey, for good reason, it could be argued.

9:08pm: How are you not able to answer that question (on who to choose to replace Paulson in the Treasury)? And if not answer it, at least not pause like that. Meg Whitman? Isn't she going to run for governor in California?

9:08pm: Stylistically McCain is already in his element on this first question.

9:06pm: McCain subtly (or not so subtly) jabs at Obama for not appearing at any town halls over the summer.

9:03pm: Good start for McCain. He looked at Obama when he shook his hand. Check that one off the list. I'm looking at you MSM.

9:01pm: And we're off!

8:29pm: Alright folks, we are just a little over half an hour away from showtime in Nashville. [No, I'm not there.] I've been asked several times since the VP debate Thursday night if I thought we would see a "different" McCain at tonight's debate. I have no idea and I certainly don't think that it will be "angry" McCain if he does try to roll out -- Al Gore style, mind you -- an alternate debate persona. However, one thing McCain must do is find a way to shift this race in some meaningful way toward him. But with Obama up in the polls, McCain is back in the role of underdog (not that he wasn't there during the first debate) and that is a role he has relished in his time running for president. For Obama, the mantra is "steady as she goes," but with an audience asking questions the dynamic may be a bit different. One thing to keep in mind about tonight's proceedings is that there are no follow up questions from the audience or the moderator. I'm assuming that includes that candidates as well.

My goal? I'll be trying to extend my streak of non-booing live blogs to two (I kid, CBSmith.). I may even try to embed some of the footage here to go along with my comments. We'll see if I can actually pull that off. As always, I'll be watching on C-SPAN. I doubt we'll be getting the full time split screen in the town hall format. [I also doubt I'll be getting that royalty check from C-SPAN.]

Also, feel free to follow along and drop comments along the way.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (10/7/08), Part II: The Changes

The Electoral College Map (10/7/08)

The Electoral College Map (10/6/08)


Anonymous said...

McCain is running circles around obama. Obama is stle and lacks substance.

Robert said...

I don't see that at all. McCain keeps saying he knows how to fix things, but he doesn't tell us how. Of course, a secret plan to end the war worked for Nixon. I think Obama is being more specific than McCain, but both are tending to duck the questions, emphasizing their talking points and attack the other one too much. I think Obama won the domestic part and that McCain is winning the security part.

Robert said...

Neither candidate answered the last question. McCain started to, but then he went into a bio just like Obama.

Anonymous said...


Jack said...

Josh: I had the same thoughts on the cynicism as you did as it was going, and was slightly relieved that McCain said the same thing.

The stupidest line in the debates so far was by McCain: "[W]hat's the best way of fixing it? Nuclear power. Sen. Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that." Yeah, I wouldn't consider safety that important if a nuclear power plant was built in my neighborhood. But McCain timed it well - right in the middle of the debate where hopefully most people are falling asleep.

McCain was attacking government programs at a time when people want government to get involved.

Nice to know, and I quote from your blog, that "Obama says Obama was right on Afghanistan." Yeah, posting during debates is tough. I understand.

Anybody notice that McCain was saying "my friends" a lot more than he has lately.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I knew Obama was going overboard with this agreeing thing, but now he's even agreeing with himself. What next?

Good catch, Jack. And a funny one at that.

Oh yeah, town halls equal increase "my friends" from McCain. Now there is a regression analysis for you. How highly are those two variable correlated.

Jack said...

Josh, you joke about a regression analysis of that, but with you, it's even money that you do it.

I like that.

Another thing which struck me during the debate, though I forgot about it until seeing that Nate mentioned it, is that whole thing about the fines. We heard that ad nauseum during the Clinton/Obama debates. Are Nate and I both wrong?

Speaking of Nate, when will you be on the Colbert Report?

Anonymous said...

Man, I wish I had time to do that one. When you get into content analysis, the type of which would be required to pull that off, you are talking about a lot of time. Maybe a research assistant could help me with that when I get a job.

Anonymous said...

I will not be on the Colbert Report anytime soon. The Wall Street Journal did call the other week when I was out of the office, but the guy I share my office with may have been attempting to get me. Consider me gotten now that I've broadcast that to everyone.

I don't recall the fines thing specifically from those debates, but Clinton and Obama had so many it would have had to have come up at some point.

Jack said...

It was a constant dispute when Clinton and Obama debated. Obama kept saying that Clinton's plan meant fining people who can't afford health care. Clinton retorted that – well, I don't even remember what her response was. Oh, that's right, it was about Obama's plan leaving people uncovered. Obama then replied that his plan didn't really leave that many people uncovered. Then Mike Gravel said something about how both of them didn't know anything and that people need to vote directly on health care issues.

cbsmith42 said...

"I'll be trying to extend my streak of non-booing live blogs to two (I kid, CBSmith.)"

No worries. My claim to fame at FHQ is suggesting the name for what shall hence be known as the "Electoral Spectrum" :)

cbsmith42 said...

"In this corner, nuclear. McCain has been on a ship with nuclear power and insists it is safe."

John McCain has had cancerous cells removed how many times?
(Not saying the cancer came from being on a nuclear sub, but somebody had to say it)

Unknown said...

McCain did better than I expected tonight. These two guys both seemed pretty Presidential tonight. McCain spoke with some confidence on the economy, as Obama did on foreign policy.

So probably both their favorables tick up a little, as happened with Biden and Palin.

I thought the most interesting, high-risk sequence was when Obama asked for the extended follow up and McCain granted it--and then Obama gave a fairly long answer which included a sharp shot at McCain. That was gutsy, and could easily have backfired, but it worked.

Overall, not a game-changer. And the score of that game is pretty heavily in favor of the blue team right now.