Thursday, October 16, 2008

Morning after analysis

Since I'm getting such a late start today, I don't have much to add to the reaction that's already out there. I agree with Phoenix Woman that the "say it to your face question" was one of the most telling moments, but I think the moment came for McCain before Obama gave that good response. This was the big challenge where McCain could satisfy the bloodlust of the base. Bob Schieffer gave him an open shot at it and instead of hitting Obama with Ayers and ACORN directly, he whined about how mean Lewis was for criticizing him. I'm surprised the base isn't complaining about that.

I see a lot of people are saying McCain did really well and it was is best debate. I disagree with that. I watched it on the CSPAN website where they had a split screen the whole time and thought McCain was just awful. He was fidgeting, and snorting and rolling his eyes the whole time. He looked like a four year old about to throw a tantrum and his answers were mostly just the same recycled catch phrases from his stump speech when he wasn't whining about Obama. To the extent that he spoke of his own policies, he struck me as rather incoherent and not really in command of the information he was presenting. It was all the tried and true GOP strategy of sloganery over substance.

Obama for his part, was a little long-winded, as is his wont, but he came across as cool-headed, and very clearly knowledgable and interested in the policies he was presenting. He may have been a little boring in his focus on substance, but I think the voters are ready for some boring wonkery after the freak show of the last eight years. When you think of the much over-used 3:00am metaphor, it seems pretty clear to me who has the right temperment to be holding the trigger.

The big losers were the pundits in the after-debate analysis. The usual suspects were quick to claim victory for McCain and once again, the public snap polling made them look like idiots. Surprisingly, Joe Klein has the best take on this:
Pundits tend to be a lagging indicator. This is particularly true at the end of a political pendulum swing. We've been conditioned by thirty years of certain arguments working-- [...]

Journalism is, naturally, about the past. We are much better at reporting things that have happened than in predicting the future. We never seem so foolish or obnoxious, especially on TV, as when we accede to the constant demand for crystal-balling. But the obvious danger inherent in journalism is that we tend to get trapped in the assumptions of the past.
That's exactly the problem with our elite pundits. I predicted years ago, that this election would be the one that explodes the conventional wisdom once and for all, or at least for the foreseeable future. My track record on these things is far from perfect -- I also predicted that Obama wouldn't go anywhere in this election -- but it appears on this point, I got that much right. One might hope the pundits get the message and stop handicapping the odds and start reporting on issues again. But I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, for more reaction from around Blogtopia (y!sctp), Sully has a good roundup.

Update: Via Joe Gandelmann, who is not a plumber, Americablog has a big roundup of media responses, none of them good for McCain.

[More posts daily at The Newshoggers and The Detroit News.]

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