Poll Update (9/27)

These polls mean nothing in the context of today, but they verify the pre-debate mindset:

California (55)SurveyUSA9/24/200853434
Colorado (9)American Research Group9/25/200845487
Florida (27)American Research Group9/25/200847467
Iowa (7)Rasmussen Reports9/25/200851436
Louisiana (9)Rasmussen Reports9/25/200840555
South Carolina (8)Research 2000, DailyKos (D)9/24/200839547
Wyoming (3)Research 2000, DailyKos (D)9/24/200836577

Thinking back to Presidential Debates past, the 1960 showdown between Kennedy and Nixon comes to mind. The 2008 version featured John McCain playing the part of the agitated, somewhat distressed Richard Nixon and Barack Obama featuring the refined control of John F. Kennedy. Following the classic story line of the '60 debate many people who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon won, while those who watched on TV thought Kennedy pulled ahead; overall it was very close. I think the same could be said of the first debate of the 2008 race.

Watching the punditry afterward (on all three networks, CNN, FOX, MSNBC) revealed a curious evolution. Many pundits initially gave McCain a slight victory on the content, but were reluctant to declare him the outright victor. I think many viewers initially thought the same. Of the completely undecided voters I talked to, they all seemed to be disappointed by the debate. They felt that neither candidate actually answered the questions. I wouldn't agree with this assessment, but I'm not an undecided voter. As the night progressed the commentary seemed to slowly turn on McCain. The focus quickly turned to John McCain's body language and perceived dissatisfaction. For much of the debate McCain was hunched over and rigid refusing to even look at Barack Obama.

If McCain is positioning himself as the national security, "I looked Putin in the eye" candidate why did he never look at Obama? I have no idea, but it was definitely noticeable; noticeable in the same way as Nixon's five o'clock shadow and profuse sweating. McCain may have won on content, but those voters who are still undecided don't vote on content, they vote on perception. I think these perception voters will see an inherent flaw in McCain's performance that should not substantively matter. The debate is both a discussion and performance; McCain may have been superior at the discussion but Obama's performance highlighted the night and will likely resonant with undecideds.

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2 Response(s) to Poll Update (9/27)

Midwest Voter
9/27/2008 9:20:51 PM CT

I thought McCain looked old, and stiff in the debate last night. If perceptions are what voters base their vote on then Obama should win by a landslide. Obama was poised, professional, and respectful; what a concept.
9/27/2008 9:21:46 PM CT

McCain didn't even win on content. He offered nothing more than a shallow reiteration of generic Reaganomics concepts that have been proven to not work in practice.

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