The much be-hyped town hall debate brought the candidates close together on the bright red carpet, the people closer to the candidates, and perhaps the undecideds closer to a decision? Between the discussion happening here, and the sparkily veiled tension on the stage, how did this match up fare? Here's what we thought:
The biggest shot in the arm this debate format provided was bringing the issues down to the individual level. The audience was intimate and the scrutiny felt equally as close — both from the questioners and Tom Brokaw, who proved to be a ruthless but level moderator. I was nervous about the "real people" questions (you saw the snowman debacle, I don't always like a Pro-Am) but some of them were great.
One in particular from an 80-year-old who lived through the Great Depression — she asked what kind of sacrifice we as Americans should make that wasn't just the blood of our Armed Forces. McCain's answer focused on spending saying, "We're going to have to tell the American people that we're going to have to have a spending freeze. . . we can establish priorities and full transparency. . . and I'm going to tell you Americans that we'll get to work right away." Obama continued the answer speaking to civilian service and expanding the Peace Corps, a different take on it to be sure.
To see the rest of my thoughts and what Liberty had to say, read more.
When the discussion turned to health care the tension ratcheted up several notches along with the interest. McCain lasered in on the government mandated aspect of Obama's plan, and slammed home the choice-and-freedom aspect of his $5,000 tax credit. Then Brokaw asked a point-blank smacker: is health care a privilege, a right, or a responsibility. McCain answered "responsibility," Obama, "right."
Overall McCain was not shy about going for the jugular, on several instances catching everyone off guard with his good-natured intensity. In particular, his calling out of Obama as "that one," was a heated moment no one missed. The last question, "what don't you know and how will you learn it?" provided the candidates a moment to wrap up. McCain seized the opportunity for his most compelling and lucidly forceful riff of the night saying, "I know what it's like to have your comrades pick you up and put you back in the fight, and that's what this country is all about."
A game-changer it was not, but an inning? Yes, and then some.
Tonight both candidates seemed a little tepid and defensive. I kept waiting to see some spirit or contagious passion.
During the discussion on government spending John McCain kept hitting Barack Obama on "increased spending." Obama defended his position as smart taxing and smart spending. He made it clear that it's inevitable that the government is going to tax and it's going to spend — but what's crucial is giving the tax breaks to the right people, and using the collected money for efficient and fair programs.
The dying debate got a burst of virility during the health care discussion — McCain described health care as a responsibility while Obama called it a right. Obama spoke clearly and concisely about his position. He came off as genuinely concerned about the uninsured and those with preexisting conditions, and pointed to the drastic differences between his plan and McCain's. He landed a strong punch when he noted that the Chamber of Commerce said McCain's health care plan would destroy employer-based coverage. McCain drew up concerns of government mandates and bureaucracy, while Obama said he wanted to preserve choices.
Obama took McCain's theme from the last debate, that Obama "doesn't understand," as a chance to highlight differences in judgment. Connecting the economy to Iraq, he noted that the US spends $10 billion a month in Iraq, while Americans are out of jobs. Noting that no country has maintained military superiority while its economy declined, Obama made it seem like McCain is the candidate that does not understand a complex world.
What did you think? Did McCain do what he needed to? Was there a clear winner?
The opinions expressed here are those of the authors, CitizenSugar and LibertySugar, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Sugar Inc.