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Saddleback: My impressions

August 17, 2008

A narrow victory for McCain

After a quick read of the transcript, I’ve come to the conclusion that both McCain and Warren were the winners of the Saddleback forum last night. The fact that posters on Daily Kos are talking about ‘bias’, and even insinuating that Warren somehow leaked the questions to McCain beforehand, tells you all you need to know. Ironically, I was impressed by Warren. Although he had set expectations low by hinting he would ask bland questions more suited to a job interview than a Presidential forum, he managed to keep his questions relevant.

McCain clearly had two things in mind; to throw red meat to the base on abortion without ruling out Lieberman and to quash the spin that he was incoherent. He accomplished both things and also managed to raise the tone of the evening by mentioning John Lewis as one of those he would listen to closely. He clearly isn’t going to make inroads into Obama’s support in the African-American community, but it is nice to see him acknowledging it’s existence, something Hillary Clinton failed to do. His conservative stance on taxation was disappointing. However, McCain will hopefully have used his choice of running mate to demonstrate that he is not a generic Republican by the time the Presidential debates begin.

McCain also made the strategic decision to answer the less important questions more quickly, allowing him to give a detailed response on the issues he wanted to emphasise. Obama, on the other hand, took around the same time on each question, which meant that Warren was forced to cut him off on some of the questions. McCain also directly confronted the question about his first marriage without prompting, thus removing one of Obama’s possible lines of attack. The only slightly hollow note was the reference to the Obama’s decision to educate their daughters privately.

Obama will gain some credit for showing up in what is Republican territory. However, the way his appearance had been over-hyped and the fact that this was a relatively sympathetic environment, means that any boost on these grounds will be marginal. The only positive thing that Obama did well was to mention his elderly grandmother as one of those whom he consults regularly, though that risks re-dredging up memories of Wrightgate. Reading the transcript Obama seemed hesitant and nearly avoided making a major gaffe in his speech about Clarence Thomas. As someone who has money on McCain I am happy that my worst fears were not realised.

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2 comments

  1. I agree with your comment about McCain’s first marriage. It does seem Obama tried to achieve a similar result with his comment on drug use.


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