Judge: Ray D’Cruz
Scores: McCain 80 | Obama 76
I gave a narrow win to McCain.
Obama started very strongly (and clearly, for example, the four conditions attached to the economic rescue plan) as debate focused on the international economic crisis. But as the debate moved to more traditional foreign affairs issues such as Iraq, McCain gathered strength.
Obama was more dynamic early in the debate, and was better able to engage McCain directly. As the debate wore on and energy levels flagged, the difference in manner between the two speakers diminished.
McCain played to his experience very well. From his war record, to his voting record (for example the 9-11 Commission) to his personal knowledge of countries and leaders, he continuously underlined his long and consistent approach to issues. No surprise then that he vaguely mentioned his running mate just once.
On an issue by issue basis, it was a close debate. Obama did better on the economic issues (his responses were very well structured) and Afghanistan. McCain did a good job of linking the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan, but did not effectively rebut Obama’s contention that Afghanistan had been neglected in relative terms.
McCain appeared stronger on Iraq. In a debate with no knock-out blows, the “surge” came closest to being one with Obama appearing lost and confused on his Iraq strategy while McCain ridiculed the idea of timetabled withdrawal successfully.
Obama failed to close strongly. He veered back onto domestic issues like education listlessly (which might resonate with some voters, but did not constitute a good close in the context of this debate). McCain closed strongly, predictably drawing on veterans’ issues and his own knowledge and experience.