Judge: Neill Harvey-Smith
Scores: Obama 78 | McCain 74
Barack Obama scored a victory in the third Presidential debate. This was the Joe the plumber debate. Unless you are Joe or one of his employees, there was little to choose on matter. Obama played safe by highlighting similarities as well as difference between the candidates and projecting a spirit of unity. He passed up several opportunities to score points off his opponent, even when under personal attack.
McCain was more aggressive, going for Obama both on the issues and on character. It came across remarkably like a British Parliamentary debate, with Obama seeming like the government side, with everything to lose, and McCain the opposition, putting holes in his opponent’s ideas and challenging him with strong accusations.
The end product was that Obama looked and sounded presidential, while McCain’s aggression got the better of him. He mangled his words frequently (“President America” and “healthcare avoidance” were my favourites), fiddled with his pen, scribbled notes on a giant pad that remained in camera shot and failed to balance attack with properly explained and constructive alternative policies.
Much of the debate was lost to point-scoring and fairly tedious detail, with McCain trying to show fight and Obama dead-batting, like the section on Bill Ayers. The man who most often and most successively brought it back to the people outside the hall was Obama. His safety-first approach was effective at neutering the anger of McCain, who looked frustrated and tired by the end.