October 15th, 2008
11:05 PM ET
6 years ago

Gergen: Three in a row for Obama

John McCain had a very strong start in the first 30 minutes or so, and I thought that he was heading toward a debate victory - his first. But he veered off course in the middle as the conversation turned toward the negative quality of the campaign - and he became more and more the angry, older candidate, bringing back memories of the performance by Bob Dole back in 1996 that helped to doom his campaign. He also seemed to grow more tired over the course of the debate.

Barack Obama had a good first answer about his economic plan then seemed flat for the rest of the first half hour. But then things picked up for him. During the assaults by McCain, he kept his cool - he never took the bait (rumors were heavy before the debate that McCain would try to goad him into losing his steadiness). Coming out of that second half hour, Obama became much stronger in the last third of the debate, scoring extremely well on health care, education, abortion, and the Supreme Court.

McCain likely helped himself with his base tonight, but I doubt that he helped himself much with undecided voters.

Overall, I would score Obama at an A minus for the night, and McCain at a B plus.

It appears that Obama will come out of these debates with a general public perception that he has won three in a row.

PS: A hearty salute to tonight's moderator, Bob Schieffer, he deserves an A plus.


Filed under: Presidential Debate
soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. independet turned obama

    i agree, vote for obama 08, he spent more time attacking obama than talking about the issue

    October 15, 2008 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  2. banderson

    I agree.

    October 15, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  3. andno

    Bob Schieffer is, indeed, the man.

    October 15, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  4. OBAMANOS

    Gergen, I enjoy your commentary more than any other.

    I look forward to your next insightful post.

    thanks and I agree completely with your take on tonight.

    October 15, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  5. Nikki, Houston

    Of course McCain veered off. He was tired, and it was past his bed time.

    October 15, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  6. Independent for Obama!!

    Totally! This Independent and female by the way is all set to vote and cannot wait till Nov 4th. I think Obama was in command, calm, cool and collective. Very specific, very clear, very focused on the issues whiel Mccain was bringing up Obama's name every time he was asked a question. Obama won hands down!

    October 15, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  7. Ashley

    Bob S rocked! Maybe we should have him do all the debates! He asked the important and hard questions. He was outstanding.

    October 15, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  8. bula bula

    I agree Dave. Make sure you analyze his disgruntled facial expressions which some were over the top!

    October 15, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  9. Susan from Scotts Valley, CA

    Schieffer did a great job!

    October 15, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  10. bob

    I expected Mccain to talk about Ayers and score a C-.

    October 15, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  11. Chuck

    I disagree.

    When Obama spoke, he got lost in the weeds.

    He was on the defensive for 2/3 of the debate.

    Love that HUGE OLD VEIN on his temple. (wonder what caused it?)

    October 15, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  12. Jon Stewart

    Gergen got it right, FINALLY. I still can't believe the other bone heads in tonight's partisan panel on CNN who thought McCain came strong. McCain did attack (as always) and demonstrated his anger and erratic behavior but didn't offer solutions for American people suffering in the worst economic times under the incompetent Bush

    October 15, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  13. Dr Sushie Pentiah

    JOE The Plumber VOTES for OBAMA

    October 15, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  14. LS

    That would four in a row for Obama and Biden, let's not forget the VP debate.

    Way to Go Obama an Biden !!

    October 15, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  15. veteran for obam

    is it me, or did mccain say that people who believe in roe v. wade aren't considered to be qualified for the supreme court? he tried to say it wasn't a litmus test but then said anyone who believe in it, well, my friends, didn't have a history of sound judgment or something. is he serious. and he is not bush? i'm confused. how is he different?

    October 15, 2008 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  16. rod hanson

    David you are correct...

    Grumpy Old Men and Trophy Wives....that is the best the Republican Party is offering this year....

    My son is a United States Marine......I am a registered independent.....I vote both Democrat and Republican...I am an evangelical born again Christian....

    and I have had enough of Bush, McCain, trickle down economics, and 8 years of incompetence...
    I have decided to vote for Obama.....

    October 15, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  17. swalker3237

    I agree on all points. I am very happy to know I won't have to sit through another debate. Bring on the election!!!

    OBAMA MAMA '08!!!

    October 15, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  18. Mo

    McCain constantly referred to "Autism" in reference to special needs children – Palin's son has down syndrome. Another "senior moment... lol

    October 15, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  19. meme

    just because you “jib jab” then toss a smirk at the camera doesnt make you right………look at the last clown that did that and see what he got you>

    October 15, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  20. Bob

    Is Rodham Gergen looking for a job in an Obama administration?

    October 15, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  21. Deb, Allentown,PA

    If I were a McCain supporter, I would have been cringing big time tonight. He was angry, unfocused and spouted lie after lie.

    Obama gave up a lot of opportunities to hit back, the biggest being McCain's laughable VP pick.

    This will go a long way to sealing Obama's victory.

    October 15, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  22. Kay

    Congratulations, Mr. Gergen. You have finally seen the light.
    I personally would have given McCain an "F". His demeaner, facial expressions, sighs, attempts to suppress his anger were a dead give away that he is NOT presidential material.

    October 15, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  23. Rightsaid

    Absolutely.
    John McCain was looking across the desk at the next president of the US.

    That One '08!

    October 15, 2008 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  24. Independent Republican

    OBAMA IS MY MAN. NO OFFENSE MCCAIN BUT THIS TIME I AM VOTING OBAMA.

    October 15, 2008 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  25. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    I didn't see the strong start for McBush. He gritted his teeth, stared like a madman all night, and sneered at very inappropriate times. He is not presidential.

    I'm going with the two guys that support our CONSTITUTION.

    We do NOT need another power abusing VP.

    Obama/Biden – Our Rights protected.

    October 15, 2008 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
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