Obama-McCain 3rd Debate Reaction

If I ever find Joe the Plumber,  I’m going to punch him in the nose.[*]  I’m not a big fan of Louise Ledbetter, either.

Obama McCain Third Debate Photo via YahooNews

Obama McCain Third Debate Photo via YahooNews

As a general matter, I find the idiotic personalization of American public policy extremely annoying.  Phil Gramm, with his unfortunately named “Dicky Flatt Test,” at least hit on a good means of using the technique.  But spending the whole evening mentioning how each and every decision would impact some plumber we don’t know is annoying.

McCain scored some points, I think, on the matter of taxes and individual responsibility and Obama’s thinking everything is a government problem.  He lost more,  probably, with his rather grumpy demeanor.  There was a lot of similarity between his reaction shots — which was 95 percent of the debate for those of us watching on CNN — and Al Gore’s infamous harumphing during his first debate with George W. Bush.

Obama seemed cool and confident throughout, occasionally amused, while McCain seemed too eager to  get in some rather poorly crafted and rehearsed talking points.   The attack lines seemed forced rather than conversational, let alone amusing.

The questions, while supposed to be different, were mostly repeats of what we heard the first two times.  Schieffer threw a softball to Obama on why his VP pick was more qualified to be president than McCain’s but he bunted.  McCain actually did reasonably well with the question and I don’t think it hurt him.

Overall, I don’t see how McCain helped himself tonight, much less hit the home run he needed to put himself back into this thing.

UPDATE:  Switched to lo-def Fox for their roundtable after-action.   Neither Brit Hume nor Juan Williams think McCain did a lot.   Bill Kristol, the biggest McCain apologist, thought McCain went “half way” in going between the happy warrior mode and being an attack dog and missed the opportunity to draw contrasts.

Frank Luntz’ focus group overwhelmingly thought Obama won the debate.  They did think McCain’s “I’m not George Bush.  If you wanted to run against him, you should have run four years ago” was a great line, though, and the most important moment of the night.

[*] I’m actually starting to like the guy, so am much less inclined to punch him now.  Someone needs to pay, though, for subjecting me to 90 minutes of inanity.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Billy says:

    Snore…

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Joyner, that explains a lot. You get your news from CNN. A more bias new source would be difficult to find. Why not just switch to MSNBC? At least the news on Fox is unbias. There are things you do not know about Obama because the news media protect him from his past.

  3. James Joyner says:

    You get your news from CNN.

    Uh, no, I don’t watch TV news, preferring to get my information from printed sources, particularly online. I watch the debates and whatnot on CNN because they broadcast in HD and have good graphics (the dials in the case of the debates).

    I actually switch to FOX, which leans right, for the postmortems.

  4. Fox news is unbiased says:

    what a snoozefest

  5. Patrick T McGuire says:

    Frank Luntz’ focus group overwhelmingly thought Obama won the debate.

    But in the end, only 4 of the 23 undecideds in his group said they are now supporting Obama. He may have won the debate but he didn’t close the deal.

  6. anjin-san says:

    He may have won the debate

    That’s all he needed to do, he is winning.

  7. Anderson says:

    Of course most of the undecideds didn’t make up their minds. If they’re undecided at this point, they have no f—ing clue and might as well flip a coin.

    Voters of both stripes are morons. I had this confirmed again today listening to NPR interview some evangelical lady in NH. She likes McCain & Palin … all right, if you’re a 69-year-old evangelical who values experience, that’s not an insane choice, fine.

    Then she says how she thinks John McCain understands what it’s like having to live within your means. Uh, based on WHAT exactly? His marriage to an heiress? His elite Navy background? His inability to recall just how many houses he owns?

    Hopefully the morons break 50-50 and let the informed people swing the election.

  8. G.A.Phillips says:

    I thought 0bama got smoked, not that that means much watching these two. “Senator government” was the best line, but accidental.

  9. Fence says:

    My comments:

    1. Thank goodness there are no more debates. I feel compelled to watch them, but am quite bored with the repetition.

    2. Obama really hasn’t been south of the Rio Grande? Wow.

    3. McCain did better at the beginning. By the end of the debate, sitting down in a blue suit and thick blue tie in front of a blue screen, he started to look to me like Bob Novak. I like to watch Novak and read his columns, but angry old white guy obviously isn’t the formula here.

    4. McCain has repudiated everyone who has made outlandish charges against Obama? Oh really? Sarah Palin comes to mind.

    Overall, McCain may have stopped some bleeding but it’s too late.

  10. Fence says:

    Also, who would have believed two years ago how little Iraq, al Qaeda and 9/11 would be discussed in the final Presidential debate?

    I suspect we’ll be hearing some 527 ads saying that McCain mocked abortion exceptions for the health of the mother.

  11. just me says:

    In the end I agree with you that this isn’t going to change anything, but has a debate ever changed anything.

    I think this has been the better debate of the three presidential ones.

    I actually think on substance McCain did better-although I agree with Kristol that McCain would sort of go on the attack, but not actually make a killing blow.

    Obama’s smirks and giggles bothered me more than any face McCain made, but he definitely won on style. and when it comes to debates I think most of the voting public likes style over substance.

  12. rodney dill says:

    Obama really bumble his way around his words. The only way he can sound coherent is when he is making well rehearsed empty promises. I guess some of the words of the telemprompter finally stuck in his head.

  13. markm says:

    I FINALLY LEARNED SOMETHING FROM THE DEBATE!!!!!!!!…McCain is a southpaw…so there’s that.

    It’s readily apparent that if McCain had a perfect rescue plan on a given situation, his delivery of said plan would make it sound crappy. Opposite, Obama could be pushing a bucket of sh*t for every table…and i’ll be damned if “bucket o’ sh*t” frozen dinners wouldn’t go through the roof.

    We are in deep trouble no matter who wins though a President Obama with a Dem congress scares the hell out of me. I could handle some gridlock. And I don’t care which side of the plate you hit from, redistribution of monies between those that have it and those that don’t is goddamn frightening.

  14. rodney dill says:

    Strange, during the debate I thought the bumbler had given a much shorter list of people that would influence him in the Whitehouse.

  15. sam says:

    They did think McCain’s “I’m not George Bush. If you wanted to run against him, you should have run four years ago” was a great line, though, and the most important moment of the night.

    Perhaps they did, but I think, strategically and to the detriment of McCain, the most important moment of the night was when he belittled the “woman’s health” proviso in abortion legislation.
    I think Chris Matthews was right: that will come back to haunt him in these closing weeks.

  16. just me says:

    I FINALLY LEARNED SOMETHING FROM THE DEBATE!!!!!!!!…McCain is a southpaw…so there’s that.

    LOL me too. I didn’t catch it in the last debate.

    I also agree that the idea of Obama with a more than likely veto proof or close to veto proof congress scares me-and to some degree I almost wonder if congress members running for reelection wouldn’t do well to point that out often.

  17. hcantrall says:

    I think markm has it about right. I probably won’t vote this election. I hate to not do it but I just can’t stand either one of these men so I feel like I have no choice but to skip it.

  18. robertl says:

    Great line from McCain, if you wanted to run against George Bush you should have done so 4 years ago. Obama should have answered, “You ran against him 8 years ago and a majority of your party thought he would make a better president.” I’ve been waiting the entire election for Obama to use that line.

  19. Fence says:

    I also agree that the idea of Obama with a more than likely veto proof or close to veto proof congress scares me

    No one is projecting anything close to veto-proof majorities for either chamber. In any case, veto proof only matters when Congress and the President disagree. Presumably you are talking about a fillibuster proof Senate. Yeah, I wish Congress were likely to end up more conservative as well. But we blew that by electing George Bush. It will be interesting to see if Obama can keep the liberal wing in check or if he will blow Congress like Clinton did in 1994.

  20. James M. says:

    Nothing new with this debate. Sure McCain came out a little harder but too little too late. I have come to the conclusion I am writing in Mickey Mouse much better choice than either candidate in my opinion. I just can’t decide whether it should be Donald or Pluto as V.P.?

  21. sam says:

    And I don’t care which side of the plate you hit from, redistribution of monies between those that have it and those that don’t is goddamn frightening.

    I confess I don’t understand this “redistribution” argument. If you raise taxes on a small segment of the population in order to give a tax break to a much larger segment of the population, then, the argument goes, you’re redistributed income. However, the argument has to be premised on the fact there is already some distribution of monies. If this is so, then, why can’t one argue that the smaller segment is able to enjoy it tax rate because of the tax rate(s) of the larger segment? That is to say, why can’t one argue that Joe Bigbux is able to keep more of his money because Jane Notsobigbux has to give up more of her’s? And isn’t that a distribution in the other direction?

  22. anjin-san says:

    In the end I agree with you that this isn’t going to change anything, but has a debate ever changed anything.

    Ummm. Let’s see. Kennedy/Nixon. Reagan “I paid for this microphone”.

  23. Bithead says:

    If I ever find Joe the Plumber…

    Neither Brit Hume nor Juan Williams think McCain did a lot.

    Well, he may not have needed to, in reality. I note that the Democrat spinners are all to a man ignoring Joe the Plumber, as well they might.

    McCain was wise to bring this whole ‘Joe the PLumber” thing up last night because the story is viral in nature, and will do a lot of his work for him. I mean, leave at the side of the road all the large number of questions about his relationships with Ayers, Wright, ACORN, and all the rest that now reside under his bus. Those are important, certainly, but in terms of voters personally identifying with a situation, none of these comes close to Joe the Plumber, and Obama comes out on the losing end of that one.
    The reality is that all Joe the Plumber did, was ask a pertinent question of a liberal, a question that stripped away the liberal veneer, exposing the socialist underneath. That’s something the mainstream press has very rarely dared to do. That such a thing so rarely happens is exactly why Obama was caught off guard. That is particularly clear in the video.

    Consider closely, please, the rapid rise in popularity of Joe the Plumber for asking serious questions of liberals versus the slow demise of the supposedly mainstream media for their long- term refusal to ask such questions.

    I suggest that the very reason Obama was caught off guard by Joe was that he dared to enter an area the press would never go.

    And in the end, isn’t that what all the argument over this guy is about?

    Obama revealed himself in that exchange with Joe to be quite flawed. He was caught off guard and flailed about until he hit on his touchstone: Socialist wealth redistribution. All McCain had to do to exploit that entire meme was raise the subject breifly, and much like water will eventually break up a dam with a crack in it, let nature take it’s course.

    And look, McCain is not a showstopping debater. Never has been, and that much was clear back in the 2000 cycle and frankly long before that. Thing is, though, we’re not electing a Harvard Debate team, we’re electing a leader. So, to win in terms of winning the election, what McCain had to do during the debate was to reveal the flaws in not only Obama’s policies, but in Obama himself. Not with anything explosive, but by sticking a prybar in the cracks so a little light can shine in over these next 20 days or so. McCain did that, largely by way of bringing Joe the Plumber out.

    Sometimes, it’s the small explosions that do the most damage, in the end.