October 15th, 2008
11:05 PM ET
14 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. Steve

    Obama seems to have grown more 'Presidential' with each debate, while McCain continually resorts to being the old curmudgeon. It seems like McCain feels he gains no traction trying to explain his policies so he must resort to lies and mudslinging. McCain is just plain out of touch.

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  2. Rj

    I just heard Sen. McCain openly admitted that Sen. Obama won the debate. Right after the debate Sen. McCain told Sen Obama "Good Job! Good Job! Good Job!

    Now what's the spin for?

    October 15, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  3. ricardo williams

    Yeah Obama won and Joe the plumber came in second and Mccain a distant fourth. Well actually Mccain came in last after the Moderator

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  4. Doug, Pittsburgh, PA

    Agree completely, David. Towards the end McCain's constant attacks grew tiresome. Reaffirmed what I was wondering going into the debates: Does Obama have the right temperment to be president? The resounding answer for me was, yes.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  5. james in s.c.

    i agree mr, gergen, sen obama looked so presidential, i love the answer on about sarah palin, "let the american people decide"!
    mccain looked so erractic, too aggresive, blinking so much that i thought he was going to have a stroke.
    yes its 3 in a row for obama...like we say in baseball....he "swept the series"


    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  6. Ken in NC

    I think the moderator, Bob Schieffer, did a great job tonight in keeping the candidates within the limits and by allowing responses by each of them.

    I think McCain appeared to be angry through out the entire debate and considering that, I find it hard to place him in the position of being our leader and meeting with the leaders of other nations. I get the feeling he would walk out of talks with the other leader feeling that they have no choice but to attack us. That is not a good feeling.

    I was reading somewhere that McCain looked like a deer in head lights tonight. I think the headlights he saw tonight belong to Sarah Palin on a moose hunt and she got McCain in her sights.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  7. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    Negative ads still running in NC. Worse every day.

    NO McCain NO Palin. No more abuse of power – No more lies.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  8. Jeff Sanders

    When you find yourself frustrated loosing day after day, you to would become angry in debating. Poor McCain, what he doesn't realize is HE IS PART OF THE PROBLEM,! If the president is a REPUBLICAN and the repulicans are the blame for the mess the left in this country, McCain you to are a part of the problem. Sorry buddy, you should have saw it coming!

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  9. Hope 2008

    The same old "angry" John Mccain is what I saw. He kept blaming Obama for the tone of his campaign. Get over it John! Obama chose not to have town hall meetings with you.End of story. I am so sick of the "blame game". Take responsibilty for your negative campaign, don't blame it on others.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  10. Joseph Adewole

    Job welldone for Barack; It shall be well with you.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  11. Marty, FL

    Agreed David. The three debates were won by Obama. He came across more composed, calm, and presidential.

    Although McCain did better tonight, he still seemed angry and awkward at times in his body language. His loud breaths while Obama was speaking were distracting and somewhat disrespectful.

    McCain also sounded divisive by targeting Democrats, while Obama reached out to Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in a unifying manner.

    Good job Bob Schieffer as moderator.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  12. don berry

    yes, a bigh "shout out" to Bob Schieffer, far and away the best moderator.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  13. J.C.

    Yes, Bob should get an A plus for saying that math failure can hurt our national security, with which Senator Obama disagrees. But he thinks math is important for our economy. I think math is the language of science and engineering in addition to economics. We cannot compete without it.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  14. LT for Obama

    Did anyone else notice that McCain seemed to think that Sarah's baby has autism? I noticed that everytime he brought up the subject of Sarah and special needs children, he kept referencing autism. Baby Trig has Down's Syndrome Senator McCain. You really should know about your running mate, my friend.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  15. jOHN

    I agree an A+ for Mr Schieffer. By far the best guided content.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  16. Carrie Pa

    B+ for Obama, D for McCain, A+ for Schieffer

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  17. prav

    It was a very interesting debate and for once I thought may be John would be a better President. However he sliped and Obama took no time to recover and show his statemanship. The moderator, Bob was the best and was on his own terms.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  18. Redneck from Kentucky

    I agree. McCain was clearly ahead the first 20 minutes or so, then he began to unravel at the seams. The angry old man that despises Obama came out again. McCain seemed to be sitting in his seat seething. If he was a camel, he would have been spitting and people would have been running for cover. Once again, his anger caused him to lose control of what could have been a really good night for him.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  19. Cynthia; Bham

    I agree totally with you David. Did you notice how Senator McCain and Palin both have the same debating style – they answer the questions they want and then say whatever talking points or hits that they want to make. In addition, McCain needs some type of anger management because I thought he was going to have a stroke at points on the stage because he seemed so angry. Tell Dana the only difference between McCain and Bush is that Bush is goofy and McCain needs counseling.

    October 15, 2008 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
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