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August 18th, 2008
11:52 AM ET

Is the tide turning?

David Gergen | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

Heading into the candidates' appearances on Saturday night at Saddleback Church, the conventional wisdom in politics was Barack Obama should have a clear upper hand in any joint appearance with John McCain - one the young, eloquent, cool, charismatic dude who can charm birds from the trees, the other the meandering, sometimes bumbling, old fellow who can barely distinguish Sunnis from Shiias.

Well, kiss that myth goodbye.

McCain came roaring out of the gate from the first question and was a commanding figure throughout the night as he spoke directly and often movingly about his past and the country's future. By contrast, Obama was often searching for words and while far more thoughtful, was also less emotionally connective with his audience.

To be sure, Obama held on to the loyalty of his own supporters - many have written in blog sites since how much they respected both his nuanced answers and the honesty of his convictions, especially his Christian faith.

There is no evidence that he lost ground through Saddleback. Moreover, Democrats can poke lots of holes in McCain's arguments and can charge that he is too much the warrior who would be too quick to send troops hither and yon. So, there is much for Democrats to chew on.

But the point is that McCain showed that he can be a much more formidable and effective campaigner in a joint appearance than hardly anyone imagined. The debates this fall are going to be pivotal to the final outcome of the election, and McCain gave a clear wake-up call to the Obama team that he may be much tougher to beat than expected.

Moreover, McCain is now on a sustained roll in his campaign. Since the time he shook up his organization a few weeks ago, he has been much more focused and has started to get through to voters. Democrats - and the press - didn't like the quality of those ads, but they seem to have worked politically. His stand on drilling and on Russia have also strengthened his aura of command. And now Saddleback.

That's quite a run and it is reflected in the polls: not only have the national numbers tightened up but McCain has actually moved ahead (slightly) in three key battleground states: Ohio, Virginia and Colorado.

A web site that averages all significant polls, RealClearPolitics.com, has previously projected that just looking at polls, Obama was ahead in states with over 300 electoral votes; now he is down to 275 - a tiny cushion since 270 is the magical number for winning.

At Saddleback, Obama surely held on to his base support but McCain strengthened his and probably appealed to some undecideds, too.

In short, the tide is moving for the first time in the Republican direction. And the realization is setting in that McCain might just win.

We are still many weeks away from the election and the overall landscape clearly favors the Democrats, but these latest developments put pressure on Obama and his party to pull themselves together or face a stunning upset. What must they do? For starters:

  • Obama must select a running mate who gives a lift to his campaign and can also hammer home a message in the convention and in the vice presidential debate this fall. He definitely needs a fighter by his side. (For my money, Hillary Clinton looks better and better; if not her, Joe Biden is probably the best fighter - perhaps Evan Bayh, or a surprise choice.)
  • The Democratic convention in Denver has to be a roaring success, not only uniting the party but sending a much clearer, crisper message about why 4 more years will be 4 more years of tears.
  • Obama himself must find his voice again, not only in his acceptance address but in the debates. He needs to bring passion as well as inspiration, a clear sense of what the choice is, and a compelling sense of why he is strong enough as well as wise enough to lead the country through tough times.

In the meantime, the message of the moment is that John McCain is no old fuddy-duddy who isn't sure where he is going; he was on fire at Saddleback and for the first time, he looks like he could win in November.


Filed under: Barack Obama • David Gergen • John McCain • Raw Politics • T1
soundoff (218 Responses)
  1. Cathy in Vermont

    After watching the Obama half of the forum, I felt he did a good job given the fact that this audience probably had more in common with John McCain's positions rather than Barack Obama's. I think Obama was trying to give thoughtful answers to a crowd that wasn't likely to agree with some of his positions. However, I must admit I was quite surprised at how well McCain did overall. Perhaps this is getting so much attention because John McCain exceeded the expectations of many. The debates will be structured differently.....time will tell.

    August 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm |
  2. sharon

    It was not a debate..it was to be a discussion/interview.. Obama was thoughtful and honest in sharing his feelings. He explained his thought process and did not bow to the conservative audience..he spoke to all Americans. I felt that McCain was using the forum to campaign and roll out his stump points.He seems to define himself by his POW status and referred to it as often as he could. ...without that..what would he bring to the table.I would have liked to see a little more thought go into his answers and a bit of explanation on how he supports his stance on some issues(eg abortion)

    August 18, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    David

    Yes it does look like McCain could very well indeed win. I think more people are seeing that McCain isn't just like Bush – that "another 4 years of Bush" is just a campaign saying to devalue his candidacy and what he has to say.

    Obama's handlers need to work with him on looking better in forums like this and debates – Obama never did well against Clinton in the debates; McCain isn't going to cut him any slack so Obama needs to find a way to bring his eloquence to the debates because without them we might see a repeat of the JFK vs. Nixon debates....

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 18, 2008 at 9:35 pm |
  4. AJ

    I am sick and tired of hearing the word "surge" from McCain. Does he know anything else that is going on in USA? Also he braggs about bringing the troops home after winning the war – what a bunch of crap. What is his definition of winning? The only winning I know is when the enemy surrenders and signs a document declaring that they have lost (as in WW I and WW II). All other wars have been undefined as far as winning goes. Does he have a plan to get a surrender letter from Osama Bib Laden now that Saddam is gone? Iraq surely falls in that category. And his attacks on Obama amounting to treason are shameless.

    August 18, 2008 at 9:35 pm |
  5. Pat Ralston

    Sir, I THINK I heard John McCain answer "Yes,yes,and no" to a question that hadn't even been asked yet!! Do you suppose McCain may have had knowledge of the questions before the event???

    August 18, 2008 at 9:24 pm |
  6. kim-chicago

    I am sorry but this forum was a joke and a set-up. John McCain answered the questions before they were even finished being asked.
    I hope the women of this country take note of his position on the supreme court. I also found it interesting how every other question led to a war story...

    August 18, 2008 at 9:22 pm |
  7. Raymond Glenn

    I think the media should be investigating why did pastor Rick gives the his audience the impression that Mccain was somewhere isolated during the time when Obama was on stage. These forums are serious business and people should play by the rules. What if CNN had made this statement and it turned out not to be true. Whether Pastor Rick knew he was back stage or isolated somewhere, it doesn't matter. He organized the forum and was responsible for making sure that people played by the rules. The Forum calls into question his credibility. It was very obvious that Mccain had rehearsed his comments before he came out. He looked like a little Kid who ate all the candy and lied about it, eventhough all the juice was running down his mouth. Do your job Anderson and investigate this story.

    August 18, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  8. Jo Ann

    Larry, From what I understand Warren said that he had given McCain and Obama a couple questions before hand and an idea about what might be asked. He told them that he was going to ask a question about the Supreme Court so of course McCain would have had something prepared.

    I find all of this concern over whether or not McCain was in a "cone of silence" rather amusing. Even if he had heard the questions and the responses ahead of time it is clear that McCain didn’t steal anything from Obama’s answers. What would be the point? It would have been like one student stealing answers off of another student’s failing paper. This is why it is time for Obama to agree to joint town hall meetings.

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    August 18, 2008 at 8:55 pm |
  9. Anelisa

    McCain reminded me of no one more than George W Bush. Quick, definitive, simple-minded answers about nothing. Since when is it a bad idea to have a president who THINKS THINGS THROUGH (as Obama clearly does)?? I thought McCain, while ideologically different from me in some ways, was a basically ok guy. After the Saddleback forum I have to say he *scares me*. Not only because he seems so comfortable with the topic of war you wonder if he's itching to find the next one - but more because his snappish, pandering, overly self-certain answers make me think his *way of thinking* (yes: his judgment) is a lot more like that of GW Bush than I previously thought. Another 4-8 years of that could be pretty devastating for America and the world.

    August 18, 2008 at 8:51 pm |
  10. Jean

    I don't think the tide is turning in McCain's favor. You media people have it all wrong. These polls are taken among "likely voters". Rest assured there are a whole lot of unlikely voters out there that are not
    polled. You can't convince me that John McCain had not heard those
    questions prior to being asked by Ric Warren. Every response came
    back to the war in Iraq with the execption of the response about the failure of his first marriage. I would hope that the American public would be a whole lot smarter this time around and not have four more years of the same failed policies of the Bush administration.

    August 18, 2008 at 8:51 pm |
  11. Jean K Worthington

    One more thing

    McCain is the meanest, lyingist man I've ever seen or heard. He would do anything to be elected, If only he was man enough to do it right. And war , that is the most important thing on his mind. He's going to get us into trouble more then we are. Russia is only doing the same thing we did to Iraq and has said so. McCain better be careful, we are out of bodies that he can send out to be slaughtered. We need to put a stop to his mouth, it runneth over. Jean New York

    August 18, 2008 at 8:44 pm |
  12. Jean K Worthington

    It is so obvious that McCain had someone giving him the answers, They came to quick. I certainly would hate to think the Pastor had anything to do with this mess, but something tells me he did. He knew McCain wasn't in a cone of silence. He also helped McCain to talk to the crowd but controlled Obama's answers so that he faced the pastor all the time. And McCain thought he was really cute when he asked if he could tell another story.? God forbid, we've heard the same ones over and over. This was just to cut and dried.Jean New York

    August 18, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  13. Karen

    This forum showed that Obama understands the complexity of the
    world we live in. There are not necessarily black and white answers to every question, sometimes there are shades of grey. McCain's answers may have been direct, but also indicate that he is out of touch with the complexity of the issues and will most likely be another Bush, his way or the highway.

    August 18, 2008 at 8:34 pm |
  14. Lenita

    Let me understand David, during the upcoming debates, if Obama doesn't answer the specific questions asked but tells jokes, and tells some sad stories that happened when he was a little boy (that's about how far back he'd have to go to compete with McCain) then Obama will be praised for doing a great job as a debater?!

    Give me a break. Where is McCain's answer as to the amount of money it takes in his opinion for someone to be considered rich? Where is the explanation for his answer as to why he considers his "failed marriage" the lowest point in his life? Expound on the one sentence answer he gave to the question, "what does being a Christian mean to you?"

    Why was McCain allowed to give stump speeches and stories about being a POW, and Obama was specifically told not to give stump speeches?

    You must have been watching a different show than I saw.

    August 18, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  15. Larry

    @ Mike in NYC wrote:

    “Protected groups” have employed threats time and again to get what they want. They continue to be coddled, which is why Larry and those of his ilk persist in it.

    Mike, which 'protected group' do I belong to? Ah, is it because I'm Scottish-American?

    August 18, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  16. Kathy

    I believe the tide is turning. This is a year that favors Democrats. They are registerd 3-1 over republicans. This is not reflected in the polls.

    I do not believe that either candidate had access to the questions . I was disappointed in both of their answers regarding America's greatest moral failure. They both thought that America could do more to help the rest of the world. I personally believe that America is the most giving nation on earth. I also believe that slavery was our greatest failure.

    Also, Barack Obama did better on the day that they both addressed the NAACP

    August 18, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  17. Marlie:

    Daviv: I have heard you say over and over again that Hillary should be Obama's VP. However, you fail to ever state that you worked for Bill Clinton's campaign. I have written this many times, but CNN won't post it.

    August 18, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  18. jen rose

    They were both given a list of what the topics were going to be before hand. I've heard on a news program today that McCain was in his limo when the questions was being asked of Obama, so McCain had time to think about the questions and answer accordingly, he answer the questions to what he thought the perfect answer should be.

    August 18, 2008 at 8:18 pm |
  19. Larry

    @Arachnae August 18th, 2008 7:07 pm ET

    Larry@6:36: did Sen. McCain say anything that was different from his position on any ot the questions?

    that’s not the issue. When not prepped and rehearsed to a fare-thee-well, McCain freezes and looks momentarily like a doddering old man. His handlers make sure he is never caught offguard, especially after the ‘viagra’ question.

    Hello. Even I was caught off guard about the viagra question; I had to go research it only to find that ED is an actual medical diagnosis and that Viagra is an actual treatment for it. Birth control ( I think they mentioned 5 types) is covered by most hmo's. If I recall correctly only about 7% of hmo's do not provide any coverage;which means the person who asked the question had not prepared herself very well to ask the question.

    I recall HRC being consistently asked first to answer a question while BO had time to think about how he would answer the question, don't recall any person but HRC complain about that, nor do I recall you complaining about it.

    August 18, 2008 at 8:15 pm |
  20. Cindy

    @ Dani, Seattle...With all the rhetoric that you are spewing do you even have a clue as to what you are talking about? It seems not! Do you think that the Dems are blameless and sinless!? Get real!! They are as worse if not more so than the Reps in politics! Get your facts straight before trying to down people that you know nothing about.

    Cindy...Ga.

    August 18, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  21. Jo Ann

    Heather, I think that I would prefer a president who works better when he is not working from a prepared script. A president should be able to answer questions and make decisions at a moment's notice. Sometimes there isn't time to "be thoughtful."

    I found it rather humorous that although Obama has tried to use McCain’s age against him, when Warren asked him who were the three wisest people he knew he mentioned his grandmother and Ted Kennedy!

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    August 18, 2008 at 8:08 pm |
  22. lampe

    Do you people really pay attention to the stories? Rev. Warren, gave both Obama,and Sen. McCain,list of the subjects, that could be discussed. They didn't get the exact questions before hand, but they both knew what the topics, would be. Why is it everytime Obama, has problems,remembering his original answers, it's everybody else's fault when he gets it wrong. This man can't remember from one day to the next what he stands for. McCain, maybe older, but with his age comes a maturity, that Obama lacks.

    August 18, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  23. Julie San Diego, CA

    P.S. to Lucy

    Went back and read your post again – don't view Rick Warren's lack of a tie as a symbol of disrespect for the office of the Presidency. You just pinpointed a local colloquialism that's difficult to explain outside the culture of palm trees and surfboards.

    Here in So-Cal, if a pastor shows up in a tie at some of the more casual services, the congregation just might roll in the aisles with laughter...my pastor teaches in shorts and shirtsleeves at some services, typically those attended by people 30 and under (of which there is a huge following).

    Jesus didn't wear a tie. I don't think it's required 🙂

    August 18, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  24. Sue Polinick, Emporium, PA

    Pastor Rick Warren mis lead us all... McCain did not follow the agreed upon rules of this forum. No excuse for his not being in the cone of silence from the onset of the forum. He lives by his own set of rules...whatever is benefits himself...hence, maverick............

    David,
    I watched your commentary after the forum...you were stunned at McCains preformance.....I know your gut was telling you something fishy was going on.................now we all know..................McCain was tooo well preped........all for show ...and you all are playing right into the plan of the McCain camp...cept..most of us dont buy it

    I watched it twice just to make sure I wasnt bias. and guess what, I was right...we didnt see the real McCain, and Pastor Warren lied to us all......bogus forum ..period

    August 18, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  25. Ron San Bruno Ca

    The republicans have a history the last eight years , of the cheat sheet option . Its in their constituation .

    August 18, 2008 at 7:52 pm |
  26. Dani, Seattle

    To be honest who cares!!?? The evangelicals support a corrupt, criminal party, so why is the media giving them a forum...? Have we not learned from a one-issue voting block? There are other sins in the bible besides abortion and homosexuality. Greed is a sin that is huge in the bible if you want to get technical and put a meter on sin ( and if you look in the bible there is no sin-o-meter) but leave it to the evangelicals- they have non-christian people thinking there is. They dare not talk about greed, and the FACT that they really worhsip money, not God. Can't even watch TBN without getting blinded by the bling! Do you really think Jesus would set foot in one of those mega churches or would he help a homeless woman, man, or child sleeping behind the mega church in an alley...? Think about it people, it's not that hard.

    August 18, 2008 at 7:43 pm |
  27. Julie San Diego, CA

    Lucy writes:

    "...who is Rick Warren? how powerful is his church?"

    Here's a little info, Lucy: Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, which is a family of churches in Orange County (south of LA) in California. The church was founded 1980 with about 200 members. Their website lists their collective membership at 16,000+, with an average attendance of 20,000+ (meaning they have a significant number of visitors).

    I believe the name of the church comes from it's proximity to their location in Saddleback Valley, which is near Saddleback Mountain in the Santa Ana Mountains. (Saddleback mountain physically looks like a horse saddle from a distance).

    Rick Warren is the author of the book "A Purpose Driven Life" which has sold over 11 million copies.

    In southern California, there are many "chains" of Christian churches that are mildly evangelical, relatively new (last 20-30 years), and very popular for their social relevance and social outreach. They are redefining the way people view "church" – not a physical building you visit on Sunday, but a spiritual community that integrates with the external world in a practical way.

    Saddleback has over 2200 groups for it's members that provide support for spiritual, health, family, work, and community outreach.

    I attend a similar church that is part of the Calvary Chapel family, which has some similar characteristics, but I have chosen them for their mission work, social outreach, and global focus (my pastor has been to Africa and the Middle East more than some foreign correspondents).

    From what I have heard, Saddleback "walks the walk" as opposed to just "talking the talk" – but I haven't attended church there so I can't confirm it. Either way, everyone's talking about the fact that a pastor can get both candidates up on stage.

    August 18, 2008 at 7:41 pm |
  28. Peter O"Donnell

    First of all, Obama has to actually beat Hillary Clinton.

    I am surprised everyone thinks this is a done deal, from where I sit, catharsis is the first part of chaos. What happens if a lot of superdelegates get cold feet? Do they really want Obama to be facing the New and Not so Improved Putin, I mean, this isn't a bunch of polar bears floating around on a supposedly melting ice-floe, this is a bunch of real bears breaking into peoples' houses.

    I won't be surprised if surprises await in Denver. But you will. That is, if the world lasts another two weeks.

    - Peter
    - BC, Canada

    August 18, 2008 at 7:25 pm |
  29. Stacy

    Cindy, I'm not sure how Warren can know that. The McCain camp themselves have said that McCain was in the motorcade on his way to the event when Obama was answering his questions. He was not in the "cone of silence" and presumably had access to Blackberries and other communication devices. Whether he took advantage of the situation is not known, but Warren seems to be the one peddling the lies.

    August 18, 2008 at 7:25 pm |
  30. Arachnae

    Cindy @7:07 – if McCain truly had no access to the questions (and I refuse to believe that no one in his entourage was carrying a blackberry), then the man is psychic – he answered the 'supreme court' question before Warren asked it.

    August 18, 2008 at 7:14 pm |
  31. Arachnae

    Larry@6:36: did Sen. McCain say anything that was different from his position on any ot the questions?

    that's not the issue. When not prepped and rehearsed to a fare-thee-well, McCain freezes and looks momentarily like a doddering old man. His handlers make sure he is never caught offguard, especially after the 'viagra' question.

    August 18, 2008 at 7:07 pm |
  32. Cindy

    To all of the nay-sayers that think McCain knew the questions beforehand....Rick Warren was interviewed today and this is his response to Obama's accusations per the LA Times:

    Dan Gilgoff asked Warren (who is much in demand after his turn as candidate inquisitor) about assertions by Obama backers that McCain got the heads-up, meaning he wouldn't have to think as fast on his feet as his rival.

    "They're dead wrong. That's just sour grapes..." Warren responds.

    Gilgoff presses the matter, saying: "A source at the debate tells me that McCain had access to some communications devices in the few minutes before he went on stage with you and that there was a monitor in his green room, in violation of the debate rules."

    Responds Warren: "That's absolutely a lie, absolutely a lie. That room was totally free, with no monitors - a flat out lie."

    So get over yourselves and accept the fact that your man Obama tanked and has no one to blame but himself. No one cheated or was given the answers. When you have beliefs and stick to them the answers come easily. Unlike when you try to cater to everyone and have to come up with something to appease the masses yet you don't believe any of it.

    Cindy...Ga.

    August 18, 2008 at 7:07 pm |
  33. Jo Ann

    David,

    I have to agree with you, during Saturday’s forum McCain definitely looked more presidential than Obama did. Although I think that anyone could have guessed some of the questions that would come up during this type of forum, Obama still seemed lost for words and didn’t appear to take this forum seriously. You are right; he didn’t seem very emotionally connected to this audience.

    The result of Saturday’s forum is a perfect example of why Obama has refused to take part in any joint town hall meetings with McCain. He knows that the combination of unknown questions and a direct and immediate comparison with McCain could be dangerous for him, but that is exactly what the American people deserve and need to see.

    The Obama campaign started the "cone of silence" rumor; I suggest everyone wait until the truth is known either way before jumping to conclusions.

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    August 18, 2008 at 6:56 pm |
  34. Jo Ann

    Marlon, To be fair, both Obama and McCain knew this was a religious forum and they both agreed to it. Anyone could just about guess the type of questions they were going to be asked. None of the questions were surprising.

    Since you believe that a religious forum favors McCain do you also think that the debates sponsored by black organizations favored Obama?

    For the record I believe in the separation of church and state and would not have chosen such a forum.

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    August 18, 2008 at 6:49 pm |
  35. Lamont austin

    Why would we elect a man who failed in other attempts to run for president, our lives are not the same as 26 yrs ago, things arent just black and white although it seems as though the struggle between black and white still exist, and you know, its not black and white its racial people against black people that have the problem and from my prospective there are racist in the white house as well as on the streets and in homes around america, they dont want that to change, there elite-ist ways and the need to have a war monger leading our country is scary. I cant believe how much some people in america are afraid of blackness. Dont worry we wont enslave you when Obama becomes president.. Or is that your arroagance is reaking havoc on your still racist being and you cant come to grips with a blackman being smart enough to run this country.
    Can someone respond to this?

    ARIZONA RON FROM TUCSON
    the same state the old man is from.

    August 18, 2008 at 6:48 pm |
  36. Larry

    Let's say that Sen. McCain heard and viewed everything that transpired in the conversation between the pastor and Sen. Obama.
    This was not a quiz like at school where there is only one correct answer, and if you get a copy of the answers ahead of time then you are cheating. When presented with the questions, did Sen. McCain say he disagreed with what Sen. Obama replied to the question; did Sen. McCain say anything that was different from his position on any ot the questions?

    August 18, 2008 at 6:36 pm |
  37. Chris - Hemet, Ca.

    I feel deceived by Rick Warren. I felt through the whole event that McCain was prepped beforehand. Remember the abortion/viagra question? McCain is just not that quick. Then we find out that the "cone of silence" McCain was supposed to be in was his limo. Limos usually have tv and radio access and that McCain didn't arrive at the event until 30-45 minutes after it began. As it turns out Rick Warren is just another sinner hiding behind the Bible. Glad I didn't waste my money on his books.

    August 18, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  38. KJ Western, MA

    I am one of those individuals who are undecided. I am trying to take input from several different angles. However, I know insulting a man's service record to his country is not a smart way to go. It does not matter if that individual is a vet from 50 years ago or 1 year ago. Young or old, people who have any sense of honor will find fault in people who attack war vets.

    People who are intellegent will look at the facts and make sounds judgements on Obama's and McCain's policies and nothing else. Attacking McCain's service history will only win McCain more votes.

    August 18, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  39. Jeanette

    While listening to Obama speak, I wish I had counted the times he stuttered!! that man who is supposed to be such an eloquent speaker can't even get a word out without stuttering all over the place. I don't know if he is trying to figure out what to say or what, but he was making himself look really stupid. I thought McCain did a great job and I learned a lot about him by listening to him speak.

    August 18, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  40. Greg

    Obama's economic policy would be disastrous for this country. Higher taxes on the people that employ workers would mean higher unemployment and fewer workers doing more. His stance on oil production is ludicrous and leaves us dependent on OPEC. No drilling in the U.S. and off the coasts and ANWAR is just ignorant. Obama not voting to make English the official language of the U.S. on June 6, 2007 is not only unpatriotic, it is also TREASON!!! Vote NONOBAMA 2008!!! BAD POLICY IS BAD CHANGE!!!!

    August 18, 2008 at 6:09 pm |
  41. Raymond Russell

    We've had nearly eight years with a "leader" who's only capable of knee-jerk, pre-fab answers designed to appeal to low-level thinkers. Clearly, that works for some Americans. But stupid is as stupid does; dogmatic adherence to emotionally-derived stances brings exactly what we have in this country today – an unbelievable mess on every front.

    What we saw in Warren's ill-planed forum was one man playing checkers, one man playing chess. Thick-headed types are so amazed that McCain can spit out rehearsed lines quickly. I, like millions of others this time around, am thrilled to see a candidate who actually thinks before (and as) he talks. Give me all the "ums" and "wells..." you want, Barack. It shows me that there's something going on in your mind besides choosing which well-worn "I was a hero" story to trot out. Obama took Warren at his word, that this would be an honest – and real – discussion. McCain took it as just another chance to kak out his tired sound bites, many prefaced by his equally-automatic "my friends."

    And what's with pilfering Solzhenitsyn's cross in the dirt story? Does he think nobody reads?

    August 18, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  42. Adam T. San Antonio, TX

    To everyone that cant seem to figure out that McCain had the answers to the test, you guys are just fooling yourselves. The reason why people continue to trust and praise republicans and their agendas is beyond me, even after you see the BLOW the american people have been dealt by the republicans you still continue to say they have the best intrest of america at heart. From what I can see, they are crooks at best . Wake up, stop dreaming and move forward, just remember that these guys had the opportunity to prove they were the champions for and of america and FAILED!!!

    August 18, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  43. Karen

    John McCain couldn't have 'heard' all the questions to the debate. He was in the cone of silence for an hour and a half. The mosthe could have heard was 30 minutes. But, let's say he did. Let's say he knew every question in advance. So what? You eithere are or are not in favor of abortion. You either are or are not in favor of staying in Iraq.

    If you don't know what you believe in (or what is popular, Mr. Obama) then you have no business being President.

    August 18, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  44. Judi Wilson

    Please post my comments...they have merit (at least mine)

    How can Americans call John McCain a christian...I have not heard the testimony on how he came to have that title..."soldier making a cross with his shoes, and not saying a word, while facing McCain in Prison" how does this qualify as a testimony of a christian...I do not have $50 million dollars in this lifetime...maybe my father has al that saved up for me in heaven one day!

    That guy is a joke...he is saying what the people in that gathering wants to hear...I am a christian and does not want to be compared to another person who is so fake in his beliefs. He is a man of little words alright..."ask him what the bible said about hiding one's light under a bushel"

    August 18, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  45. Carolyn Rollins

    Obama's numbers are dropping in the polls because he receives far more negative press than John Mccain. Although he receives a lot of attention from the media, most of it is negative, bringing up past associates and his heritage.

    John Mccain was involved in quite a few negative scandals but the media has failed to report those. For example during this election you never hear about the Keating Five scandle where Mccain was associated with Keating and it was deemed bad judgement. John Mccain also cheated on his 1st wife with Cindy Mccain but you never hear about that. The media has ripped John Edwards to pieces but John Mccain did the same thing. His wife was also ill when he divorced her.

    There seems to be a bias by the media when reporting on the two candidates. One gets to skate by with positives and the other (Obama) gets all of his negatives reported. Where is the fair and balance in that?

    August 18, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  46. Carmelita

    Hi Mr.Gergen,

    It is so funny that a room full of people here in Canada watched the forum on Saturday night and one of those people asked the question "Do you beleive that McCain got the answers, was briefed or perhaps was not even in the cone of silence room? I kid you not ! And here we have it , it is being reported that all our assumptions may be true..

    Wether they are (our assumptions) true or not I really cant believe that you of all people fell for McCains answers. They were so not answers but stories to gloss over the fact that he did not have a valid answer to any of the questions. He came across as pompos, geriactric and rude at times. He practically took over the interview and most of his responses were to revert back to his days as a POW .

    Straight talk express my foot, he's a liar and a cheat who when asked how was "the cone of silence did not ahve the decency to admit that he was not even where he should have been. McCain needs to stop following in the footsteps of his fellow rebublicans and be honest.

    What a joke and you guys at CNN all fell for it. So much for your independence and un-bias reporting. next time check the facts and then make your claims.

    McCain only seems to want to run headlong into war-zones and everyone better be on board or else. Time for a change I beleive.

    PEACE
    Carmelita

    August 18, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  47. Phyllis

    For those of you who feel that John McCain is the "saving grace" for this country, please remember the words that was coming out of his mouth, "I will hunt down Bin Laden and make him pay........." I believe we heard that form of phrasology from George W. before he went after WMD which has thrown us into this unnessary war. BUT what can we say when you would rather have the White House occupied by more of the same than to take a chance on a positive change.

    I would just like to leave you with a little know black history fact – "why is it that a Black Man can design a place for the high authorities to meet in; a place for the President to live in [The Capital & the White House] Phillip Reid [a slave] & Pierre L'Enfant, but not be good enough to lead these meetings or live in himself?"

    The comments that many of you have made rings of that "slave mentality" where you need to feel superior to someone. We are now past the millenium and you have not learned how to live in peace and harmony as a people.

    I will pray for you because you obviously don't know how to pray for yourself to come beyond yourself and grow.

    August 18, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  48. Mack

    David
    Just for fairness sake. Was this not Obama going to the lion's den by accepting the invitation. After all ask McCain if he would like to face a similar debate with a gay and lesbian crowd, a minority crowd, younger crowd, college educated crowd, a woman's forum, etc.
    Atleast give Obama credit for being brave enought to reach out to all the people in USA irrespective of their politics, age, beliefs, agenda. If you took a poll of the attendee whom the support you will find 60-70 percent MCCain supporters. So it is understandable how you feel.
    regards Mack

    August 18, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  49. RocketScientist

    It's doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that Obama's popularity has been sliding since February. How else did Clinton clean up and win nearly every state since then – even South Dakota after the media falsely reported she'd suspended her campaign? Obama is a losing horse. Now Clinton's name is in nomination. If the Democrats want to beat McCain they have one way to do it. Senator Clinton. With public financing plus her GE fund, she would have over 120 million next month ready to go. Plus her donors are completely untapped, she could raise another 2-3 hundred million easily before November. The primaries were so high profile, she's already campaigned in 50 states. She polled at 50% to 42% McCain a few weeks ago and she's not even campaigning! The GOP would have to completely change its strategy. By the time it got itself together, Clinton will have won the election.

    August 18, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  50. Pearl, Aurora CO.

    So now we are to believe your boy Obama was "not preped like
    John Mccain "funny how that is considering Obama just announced how he preped for a question he knew was coming.......Your boy is just that a boy. The man John McCain knew what to do and he did it, he was honest, straight forth and not predictiable like Boy-bama, if you have no history of things relevant then you wing them like Boy-bama did and in doing so he came off like the (Jack-ass) symbol of the Democratic Party he is.

    Your boy wants children dead if an abortion goes bad and they live, your boy bam-bam wants to feel comfortable or he won't show up to a debate. Not only won't he show up to debates, if pressed for an answer from him, " we are all racist because we judge him. Because he dosent "look like our money" and on top of all that and more...if the money you take home is what he considers rich, bend over and get ready for the Obama tax..........("Pay Grade") raise.

    Now once again we have BOY-bamas disciples telling us we America will have a price to pay if he is denied his rightful supposed due
    (The Presidency). Then we have the leader of the Democratic party
    (Howard Dean) playing the race card yet again...Now if you are a Republican you are the White party. What on earth is the Boy-bama and his disciples going to do about voters who are pro-choice and still not white...

    Whats that noise...Oh, it's Hillary accepting on behalf of the 18 mill.
    that voted for her and you better believe she's been preped also and still more believable than NOBAMA.............

    August 18, 2008 at 5:08 pm |
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