Monday 26 Feb 2018 | 00:36 | SYDNEY
Monday 26 Feb 2018 | 00:36 | SYDNEY

McCain's narrow win



29 September 2008 08:33

I thought John McCain won the first presidential debate last Friday – but not by enough.

Barack Obama started strongly and crisply, enumerating the different elements that needed to feature in any financial rescue plan. By contrast, McCain started slowly: when he said ‘I've been not feeling too great about a lot of things lately’, I thought he was going to cry.

But then Obama tightened up, and McCain warmed up. McCain had the lion’s share of the laugh lines (for instance when he said of Obama’s liberal voting record: ‘it’s hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left’); his elbows were sharp; he demonstrated his knowledge of foreign places and people well. He should fire the person who chose his strobing tie, though. And given the the number of times McCain mentioned General David Petraeus, I wondered for a minute whether Sarah Palin had stepped aside to let the general take her place on the ticket.

By contrast, Obama too often found himself on the defensive or, inexplicably, agreeing with his opponent. Only towards the end did Obama drop his professorial mien and call McCain on his errors of judgment in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. He finished strongly on the issue of the United States’ standing in the world – something a lot of Americans are worried about – but I would have liked to see him bare his teeth much earlier. Overall, it was a pretty gentle effort.

By a small margin, McCain had the better of the debate, in my opinion – although not the argument. But a narrow win for McCain is really a loss, given that he is behind in the polls, the fundamentals are all against him, and the foreign policy focus of Friday’s debate made it one of his best chances to drag Obama down.

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