When it comes to watching televised political events, I prefer CSPAN or Fox News. For some reason, I chose CNN last night as my source of coverage for the presidential debate at the University of Mississippi. It turned out to be a good one because the network featured simultaneous audience response tracking across the bottom of the screen. It's one thing to listen to a candidate's position. It's quite another to see how people respond to the talk in real time.
Overall, I'd say the debate ended with a slight advantage to John McCain, perhaps a 55-45 edge. As several pundits have already commented, this represented a win for Barack Obama as he already had a five to six point lead in the national polls. We'll have a better understanding of the debate impact, of winners and losers, early next week when the next round of polls are released.
But getting back to those lines crawling across the screen . . . CNN was kind enough to provide us with three tracks: Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. As expected the tracks responded appropriately when the respective party candidates spoke. The Independent track showed the greatest swings and sharpest spikes. Surprisingly, the old man, McCain, seemed to provide most of the reasons for those responses. Barack Obama's eloquent, hypnotic, sweeping, debate club rhetoric often registered a glaring flat line response. This isn't to say he spoke nonsense. The subjects, verbs, and predicates lined up well; it's just that much of what he had to say was the broad brush word painting we've been hearing for several months. That may be all that's needed to pave the way to the White House given the economic meltdown we may be facing next week.
The meltdown, however, may provide the seeds for another surge for McCain, if he can be credited with engineering a bipartisan fix to the financial industry. This evening, 9/27, that seemed to be taking shape among Republicans on the Hill. Still, McCain must overcome great odds to approach parity with Obama as we near the election. The next five days could not only the economy, but also the next presidency. That said, the next four years would appear to be anything but a flat line experience for Americans, regardless of who sits in the White House.