Debate: Obama Makes It Two-Zip Nashville

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[Election 2008]

It’s become almost a standard tag-line among political commentators during the 2008 presidential campaign that Senator John McCain is the veritable master of the town-hall meeting, a format that brings him close-up and personal with American voters.

That myth was put to rest last night by Barack Obama in Nashville.

Obama was confident, comfortable and engaging. It was his best debate performance of the entire campaign season. He had a formidable command of both domestic and foreign policy issues, and he connected with his audience repeatedly throughout the evening. In a word, he was presidential.

A CNN poll conducted with undecided voters immediately after the debate found Obama winning by 60-40 percent. It terms of being “likable,” Obama won 65-28.

It wasn’t that close.

Both candidates stuck to the themes repeated time and time again along the campaign trail. Neither found himself off-point on any major policy issue. In terms of substance, it was entirely predictable.

The only break from scri pt was McCain’s far-fetched proposal for the Feds to buy up bad mortgages—a $300 billion bailout that sent the conservative wing of his party shivering. It was a last-minute Hail Mary pass offered up by McCain, only there was no receiver anywhere near the ball.

McCain’s attempts to take cheap shots at Obama—and he tried repeatedly—all missed their mark. His line claiming that trying to pin down Obama’s economic positions is like “trying to nail jell-o to the wall” was almost embarrassing. Talk about a thud.

Moreover, McCain came off as mean-spirited, irritated, contrived, awkward and out of touch. His comment about not naming Tom Brokaw as head of the Treasury came off as downright weird. Several times he referenced his preferred running mate Joe Lieberman, but oddly never once mentioned his real one, Sarah Palin, she of the loose-canon tendencies. Apparently, she doesn’t play well anywhere but at Republican country clubs. It’s an oddly composed ticket. One gets the sense that McCain regrets his decision about Palin with each day that passes.

And make no mistake about it: the McCain-Palin ticket is growing more and more desperate each day. A poll released this morning by Quinnipiac University noted that Obama has surged to a 15-point lead over McCain in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania. The bad news keeps piling up. Like garbage. And McCain and Palin are scrambling around it like rats.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to rise above it all. His smile tonight was his best defense against McCain’s repeated attempts at assault. Obama is genuine and he is real. McCain’s smile looked forced and painful, even sinister. The anger for which he has become known during his 26-year career in the Senate bristled just below the surface.

Then there was McCain’s reference to Obama as: “That one.”

That one? The dismissive implications of that reference are chilling.

But for all McCain’s low blows, Obama fought back tonight. He pointed out that McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, had served as a lobbyist for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. He turned around one of McCain’s attacks claiming that Obama “doesn’t understand” foreign policy issues by saying that he “didn’t understand” how we found ourselves mired in Iraq, with McCain’s support. And then Obama retorted with, “This is the guy who sang bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. Who called for the annihilation of North Korea.” McCain headed straight for the canvas.

Of course, tonight’s debate took place within a context of an economy in free-fall, with the Dow Jones Industrial index falling by another 500 points. Context is everything.

It also took place as Palin has taken the campaign into the sewer with her repeated lies about Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayres and her despicable assaults on his character.

Desperate times, I suppose, bring on desperate measures.

Meanwhile, the Obama-Biden juggernaut rolls on. They are now ahead in ten of eleven swing states and are forcing McCain-Palin to defend in Indiana and Montana. Georgia, apparently, is next.

Obama made it two-zip tonight in the debates. He’s now an odds-on favorite in Vegas. Get ready for a landslide come November.


Black Star News national affairs columnist Geoffrey Dunn, Ph. D., is an award-winning filmmaker and journalist. He is the former recipient of a both a John L. Senior Fellowship to the Cornell University Graduate School of Government and a National Newspaper Association Award for Investigative Journalism. His most recent film is Calypso Dreams.

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