Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tipping Point

Peter Suderman says it best:
Obama, as always, appeared sophisticated, urbane: He held the mic in that delicate, refined way of final-level American Idol contestants, and constantly seemed to be holding an imaginary pen in the air and trying to visualize it. He will solve America’s energy crisis with telekinesis.

McCain, on the other hand, came off as less the high-toned maverick and more the self-satisfied frat-boy goof: He started several of his answers with an Igor-via-Beavis-and-Butthead chuckle: heh-heh, heh-heh. Sorry dude, not funny.

One thing that’s clear from this debate is how little there is to John McCain and his campaign. He’s running on a few, vague issues – tax cuts, an aggressive response to Russia in specific and terrorism in general, something about energy – and a whole lot of non-policy fluff: America’s inherent strength and goodness, Obama’s inexperience, scorn for Washington insiders. But mostly, he’s running on a platform anchored by a single assumption: that John McCain is inherently, singularly qualified to lead the country, and, subsequently, deserving of the office of president. McCain views the White House as something to which he is unequivocally entitled. Beyond that, nothing else matters. Indeed, if you hold this view, nothing else would.

That's it, what tonight sealed in the public's mind: McCain has no vision, no platform, no meaningful policies. McCain's I - I - I vs. Obama's we - you - us. And this isn't a lesser of two evils election: Obama has a vision and he is ready to lead.

The debate reaction numbers are ruthless. The pundits are relaxed about it now, not trying to fake equivalency, everyone (I believe) relieved that, barring any real or tragic gamechangers, we'll have someone with a real shot at saving this country in the White House in 3 1/2 months. Help will be on the way.

The McCain surrogates couldn't even spin it convincingly tonight. Some of the second string is out, one young guy who's getting his late-game field training but only saying that he thinks McCain won the debate on "substance." One wonders, is he using "substance" as a euphemism for "nothing?" Is he using "win" as a euphemism for "lost the election tonight?"

Because this is the tipping point. With McCain flatlining on the crazy CNN reacto-meter and Obama pinning the needle with women a number of times, I'm expecting to see more movement towards Obama in the polls this week.

The moment where I think Obama won the debate:

Clearly he was ready for McCain to repeat the claim that Obama "doesn't understand" but Barack delivered his response line that there's a lot he doesn't understand without sounding rehearsed. McCain walked right into the trap. Obama led, huge surprise, on the national security debate, with a little bump for McCain on Russia.

Also, McCain will be considered a wuss by hard-right Palin-loving Conservatives for not smearing Obama with the bullshit "friend of terrorist" charge. But clearly the reason he didn't is because the always strategic and prepared Obama campaign made clear this past weekend with their rapid response that if McCain brought up Ayer, he could expect a Keating rain, and spend the next five minutes trying to defend himself from that documented association.

I could go on about McCain bringing up ancient history like Ronald Reagan, calling for government to change a bunch of mortgages (anathema to Conservatives), his crazy overuse of "my friends" to the point where it's most of my 8-year-old's imitation of him, his odd jokes to himself or Tom Brokaw, the dissonant reliance on Joe Lieberman's name, the height and physicality advantage of his opponent. But the main substance of his loss is, indeed, his lack of substance.

And McCain's worst moment, if only because it's the most easily and, I expect, frequently replayable:

Fair or not, that'll be the takeaway moment from this debate. No one will watch the final debate, except maybe if you like watching accidents. Maybe it'll be McCain's final moment of surprising grace. Maybe he'll know by then that he's lost and accept it and be a good soldier for the good of the country.

We'll see.

As for his running mate, maybe she can outrun her Troopergate, get reelected or get a TV show or Ted Stevens' Senate seat and come back in 2012 to battle Mitt and whomever for the GOP Presidential nomination.

But I like this answer better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Upcoming McCain ad:

"Was Obama at Logan Airport on September 11, 2001? If not, why doesn't he deny it?"