October 15th, 2008
11:05 PM ET
10 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. Hillary Supporter for McCain/Palin

    Kerry won all of the Presidential debates, and lost the General election – go figure.

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  2. LT for Obama

    Agreed. Obama was far more composed, seemed more interested in talking to the people. McCain was far more interested in Obama, all things Obama. I am beginning to think he has a secret crush.

    As for the facial ticks and gestures, very unpresidential.

    Lastly, I really hated the air quotes, very rude and talking over Obama and not letting him finish was rude and unpresidential. Are you, McCain, going to do that to world leaders when you meet with them?

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  3. Kate Fergus

    Three for three for Obama. Rick Davis is out to lunch when he says that Obama had difficulty with the abortion issue. He explained it very clearly.

    In addition, McCain said he wasn't George Bush; well, if he wasn't supportive of George Bush's policies, why did he vote with Bush 90% of the time.

    Come on.....now that it is inconvenient to be linked to Bush, he says he is against him??? If that is the case, why did he keep palling around with him even after Bush used swiftboat style attacks on him during the 2000 election. John McCain sways which ever way will be most beneficial to John McCain.

    Obama/Biden are the only choice.

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  4. jane in Columbus,ks

    I must agree with you David-Mccain came across as a smirking, disrespectful old man and his talking down to Obama was a total turnoff for me. Also don't people who have expertise in reading facial expressions and rapid blinking have something to say? McCain blinked so often the first 30 mins my eyes started watering.

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    That was McCain's last chance. Obama will be the next president.

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  6. former republican for OBAMA

    McCain kept rolling his eyes that is real mature.

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  7. Wen

    I agree completely David. McCain appeared disgruntled and attempted to deflect from the economic issues. Completely aborted the free trade question, and while this was McCain's best showing, the grimaces, and impatience was not presidential at all. How would he act if this was a foreign leader he was trying to mediate with-get angry if he didn't hear what appeals to him? Too late for McCain.

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  8. Republican for Obama

    Sadly, I'm with you, Dave!

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  9. Crystal Rodgers

    Forgive me if I am not sorry that Joe the Plumber will be unable to purchase a $250,000.00 business. I am amazed that Joe has been able to fair so well in these tough economic times. While other Americans (tens of thousands Americans) struggle to buy gas, food, pay the utility bill and their mortgage payment; Joe complains that he cannot buy a plumbing business for over $200,000.00. In my eyes, Joe is doing pretty well and I do not feel the least bit sorry for him. I will take the help that Senator Obama is suggesting and wish “Joe the Plumber” best of luck! Let us know when you experience what real financial trouble is!

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  10. Robert B.

    THREE Peat!!!!!!!

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  11. carol

    Sen Obama won hands down again......John McCain is no match Sen Obama at all.......McCain yet again waffles on and on and you have no idea what he is talking about.
    He just flounders from one thing to another everytime...never gives any solutions and his constant attacks toward Sen Obama took up most of his time.
    There is just no contest here.......McCain is toast!!!!

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  12. No Hillary = No Obama

    Obama is a trained lawyer, need anything else be said.

    October 15, 2008 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  13. Denise

    I'm a registered Republican, voted for John McCain in the primary, I have already submitted my ballot and voted for Barrack Obama for President. Three reasons for the change:(1) his increasing disconnect with joe-six-pack americans who are suffering just didn't seem to get it, (2) his announcement of him suspending his campaign to go to Washington and fix things, he didn't and couldn't and that should have been obvious to him that he was always construde as a Moderate not a member of the right, (3) his Vice-President choice. Sarah Palin has been divisive, the campagin turned nasty and scary. As a leader, you have to be responsible. John McCain nor Sarah Palin showed restraint in this area. Both lost my vote and respect. I'm voting Obama.

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  14. Kathy from Canada

    Senator Obama proved to the american people and the world tonight that he has the ability to be the President. He remained calm throughout the debate and took the high road. MacCain on the other hand looked liked an angry out of control man who could barely put two sentences together

    I really hope Americans vote for Obama, he is going to be the voice of reason who will work hard to redeem the Unites States reputation to the rest of the world.

    Canadians for Obama!!!

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  15. ElderLS

    Go Baracky go!!! Sen. Obama, what a guy..."cool, calm & collected"...got it all together. It's official...Sen. McCain would get a starring role in "Grumpy Old Man"!!!

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  16. Jeof

    Though McCain won the debate still he lost in polling because Obama is spending much of money for his supporters to vote in the polling. He's paying them to show that he has more support than McCain and this is the fact.

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  17. a well educated woman

    Thank you Gergen. It seems that they both made it through but I think that Obama helds his own and confirmed his stance. Thank you to CNN for always keeping it true and trusted.

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  18. Winnie Hussein.... in Montana

    I definitely think Sen. Obama won tonight. Sen. McCain's behavior was reprehensible. The eye rolling, grunting, faux wide-eyed amazement, etc. got really tiresome. I'm glad CNN did the split screen, however, so I could actually see these reactions.

    Sen. McCain proved, once again, that he is out of touch. Sarah Palin is not a role model for any woman I know, or one that I would want my daughter to look up to. The reasons are obvious, of course, including her abuse of power and constant lying. I do wish McCain had stopped lying tonight, too, but that didn't happen.

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  19. pooja

    Mr Gergen, I don;t know if Obama was 3 for 3. I know that McCain was 0. I thought Obama had nothing new to say for about 45 minutes. Then it turned ever so subtly at first, and like a landslide at the end. Obama was confident, cool, calm, collected and answered many questions with specifics. McCain while having much more experience seemed to be the likely running mate of Ms Palin. Negative did not do it for me I'm afraid. He was just too angry. And the "zero" fine for small business effectively shut him up. I thought also that mccain CONSTANTLY interrupting Obama was so childish! McCain saying :I'm not bush, u should have run against him 4 yrs ago was probably the best sound bite. If I were Obama I would have said : But I am running against him John. You voted 90% of the time with him.

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  20. PA voter

    If McCain cannot contain his emotions and show respect for his opponent, another American named Senator Obama, then how am I to trust McCain to treat other world leaders with respect? There was a point I thought McCain was just going to throw his marker at Obama. We have Tivo and replayed some of McCain's ridiculous facial reactions to Obama. Would McCain make faces at other world leaders? Gramps needs to chill.

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  21. I'vehadenuff

    Mccain looked liked he forgot to take his meds tonite. He only succeeded in having Obama look at him the way you look at a dear elder who just PISSED himself. It's over John, you can say goodnight now. BYE!!!

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  22. Jim from Illinois

    I think they should have sent Sara home a long time ago.

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  23. Joy

    I believe the true strength of character of President Obama showed in his handling of the question comparing their VPs ... so much he could have said, but he showed true grace in leaving so much unsaid! Well done, President Obama

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  24. Paul Thompson

    Gergen might as well be Obama's campaign chairman.

    And I'm sick of your coverage...
    Campbell and her polls...does she have any thing productive to add about McCain?

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  25. Frank Alabama

    John missed an opportunity. Obama says penalties for not providing healthcare benefits will apply to only large companies that do not do so. Any Obama supporter out there that can name 2 such companies. Anyone? Or all you all lemings following him off the cliff?

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
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