Saturday, September 27, 2008

Insta-polls Favor Obama

Though many pundits scored last night's debate either a draw or a win for John McCain on points, the snap polls taken immediately afterwards strongly favored Barack Obama. CNN's poll favored Obama 51%-38%. CBS's poll favored Obama by 39%-25% (36% called it a draw). Frank Luntz's and Stanley Greenberg's focus groups overwhelmingly favored Obama.

While these polls provide quick snapshots immediately following a debate and should therefore be taken with a grain of salt, they also tend to influence the perceptions of the punditry which, in turn, will have an influence on voters that may last. However, the emerging narrative from the pundits seems to be that with Obama holding a decisive polling edge on the economy, he merely needed to "hold his own" in a foreign policy debate in which the common perception is that McCain has an edge. Steve Benen of Washington Monthly explains:

Given this, last night was a genuine opportunity for McCain. The debate was focused largely on foreign policy and national security, issues perceived as McCain's strength by voters, the media, and McCain himself. It was, in this sense, an event that McCain could use to turn the whole campaign around.

Except, that clearly didn't happen. Whether it was a tie or a slight win for either candidate isn't especially important -- McCain needed a clear, dominating victory. He didn't get one. Not even close.

For Obama, the dynamic is reversed. He's benefitted as the race has shifted to the economy, but he needed to demonstrate last night that he's a credible, knowledgeable figure on foreign policy, ready to go toe to toe with a candidate with a more extensive background in international affairs. And, he did.

McCain's frequently repeated signature attack on Obama is that "he just doesn't understand..." As Jonathan Chait points out in The New Republic, Obama's thoughtful, knowledgeable, mistake-free presentation amply demonstrated that this is not the case.

--Ballard Burgher

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