2008 US Election

Obama wins third presidential debate: Rajendra

Judge: Sumithra Rajendra
Winner: Obama
Scores: Obama 86 | McCain 79

Both candidates provided an extremely engaging and lively debate which didn’t leave room for yawns. However, Senator Obama was far more structured in his speech and his arguments were easier to follow as opposed to Senator McCain.  Obama was more apt at refocusing the issues in the debate. McCain characterized Obama as anti free trade, a candidate who wants to increase taxes and supports big government, while McCain painted himself as someone who did not want to increase taxes and wanted to freeze government spending. This was highly problematic because every reform or policy that McCain had proposed required funds and if he was freezing existing funding and was not going to increase taxes where was he planning to get the funds for his programs? This was a fundamental question that haunted the debate as it progressed.

On the subject of the economy, Obama had a clear strategy of what he wanted to achieve. While this might not have directly answered the question proposed it provided a clear picture of a long term plan. McCain on the other hand actually directly provided an answer to the question posed, however, its effectiveness is questionable. McCain proposed a short term and long term fix which included spending 300 billion USD to buy off the bad mortgages so that homeowners could have a place to live.  Was this an effective short term or short sighted solution? Obama argued that this was a giveaway to banks and argued that the best way to help these homeowners was by renegotiating these mortgages. This seems like a more practical and easily digestible plan as opposed to spending almost half of the rescue budget on paying off bad loans. 

A special mention must be made here to Joe the Plumber who seemed to feature rather prominently in this debate. McCain’s strategy of using the example of Joe the Plumber a small business owner who might be shafted by Obama’s proposed tax plans might tug at the heart strings of many; however, after 15 minutes of spending the discussion on Mr. Joe, the discussion seemed to be time consuming and irrelevant to the real issues in the debate. While Obama did say that those earning below 250 000 USD will not be affected by tax increases, this was exclusive to only families. In this case, an individual or small business that makes less than 250 000 USD will still be affected. However, this was never pointed out effectively by McCain. McCain should have capitalized on this issue but unfortunately failed to do so.

On the issue of trimming down or eliminating programs McCain seemed a bit clearer by singling out certain programs that he would cut. He also said that he would freeze current spending on programs. This was a detrimental statement as it begged the question where was McCain going to get the funds for all of his other proposed policies like healthcare and education reforms.  Obama’s answer of cutting programs that don’t work and expanding those that do also does not directly answer the question. Especially since it was targeted at the reforms and programs that they have been proposing throughout this campaign. However, Obama seemed to have a more practical approach to the situation of handling limited funds than McCain.

The issue of negative campaigning is one of those issues that could probably go either way since both candidates have engaged in their fair share of negative ads. However, Obama’s approach of acknowledging that this is how politics is sometimes and then proceeding to shift the focus back to what Americans really want to hear – the economy, healthcare etc. was effective. Also, the platform given to Obama by McCain to answer the allegations concerning the Ayers and ACORN associations benefitted Obama more than it hurt him.

Both candidates agreed that dependence on foreign oil had to be reduced and their approaches to it seemed almost similar. The distinction was this; McCain wants to pursue offshore drilling while Obama said “we will look into it”. Obama did not respond strongly to this and let McCain’s approach of reducing energy dependency seem more realistic. Obama also allowed McCain to paint him as anti-free trade, while it seemed Obama wanted fair trade for America. McCain took this point home, because he managed to successfully paint Obama as not only anti free trade but also make his energy independent plan look superfluous.

On the issue of healthcare Obama was a lot clearer compared to McCain. McCain had no defense to the argument that his proposal will create a scenario where employers might no longer provide healthcare to their employees. He counter-argued that by saying that under Obama’s plan small business owners like Joe the Plumber will be fined if they don’t provide healthcare for their employees. This did not resolve anything. What was interesting was how McCain then argued that Obama was restricting choice and was playing the role of “Big Government”. Obama dealt with this deftly by pointing out that under his plan people still had choice, but more importantly they had access to health insurance. This argument was won by Obama.

It was very obvious that both candidates shared opposing views on the issue of abortion. Both candidates agreed that a common ground needed to be reached; however, they had opposing notions of when this should be reached, with Obama favoring preventive measures and McCain seemingly preferring post – occurrence measures. They were both tied on this point.


One thought on “Obama wins third presidential debate: Rajendra

  1. Superb analysis by Sumi Rajendra and I concur with her conclusion

    Posted by Bill Taylor | October 19, 2008, 5:44 pm

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