Friday, September 26, 2008

Both Candidates Speak Well, But Obama Looks More Presidential in 1st Debate

The lesson of the JFK-Nixon Presidential debates is that what the candidates look like on stage - how they react, nonverbally, to their opponent's points - can be more important to voters than what they actually say.

Barack Obama clearly won on that important plank in the debate tonight. Obama was relaxed, confident, in command of his facts. In contrast, although McCain was certainly knowledgeable, he seemed angry, dismissive, not thoroughly at ease on the stage tonight. In the long run, that will count heavily with voters.

McCain did hold his own in terms of what he said. He landed some blows, and also was able to connect with the audience emotionally. In terms of the economy, McCain's weakest position, he managed to deflect the debate to taxation, and away from economic hardships that Americans are suffering due to Republican policies.

But Obama spoke powerfully as well, and especially on foreign policy. His statement of his own position against Iraq, from the very beginning, in contrast to McCain, was especially effective. So was his insistence that Presidents must be free to negotiate with leaders of rogue nations, if necessary to keep America strong. Most important, Obama showed a calm command of foreign policy - and certainly showed he was ready to lead America in the world of nations.

In sum: a pretty equal debate, in terms of what each candidate said, with the edge to Obama. But Obama was far better in general, nonverbal impression - and I expect this Presidential sense will be what most sticks when voters cast their ballots.

Looking forward to the next debates.

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