September 26th, 2008
10:51 PM ET

Debate not raising the bar... literally

David Mattingly
AC360° Correspondent

I'm at a pub just outside Atlanta watching the debate. This is a place where every television is normally turned to a sporting event. Tonight every screen is on the debate and the pub is full but uncharacteristically quiet.

The crowd is listening intently but seems to be unmoved. With the exception of occasional applause from two tables of Obama supporters, this debate doesn't seem to be winning this crowd over to either candidate.

Filed under: David Mattingly • Raw Politics
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. LG

    I thought this was supposed to be a clear win for McCain, It didn't look that way to me. Was this really his area of expertise?

    September 26, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  2. Marci

    HELLOOOOOOO!!! No one has said ANYTHING about Obama calling McCain, Jim I mean John......... You are talking about everything and nothing about that!!!!!!!!! Please say something!
    You rock, by the way!!!

    September 26, 2008 at 11:31 pm |
  3. Brent

    The lessons of Vietnam – John McCain doesn't get it. Obama does. McCain's lesson was how to get out of a quagmire. Obama's lesson was how not to fight the wrong war and for the wrong reasons. McCain doesn't get it. Communism did not flourish throughout the world because the US lost the war. It ruined the US's credibility because of their tactics and their justification for the war. Gulf of Tonkin was a lie to get into the war. So was WMD in Iraq. The debate you are having tonight happened in 1968.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  4. Heather

    I am young and this is the first election I've can't get my eyes off of. I can't believe how well behaved Obama is and how defensive McCain is. It goes to show voting for Obama is the right thing for me to do. Thx for the excellent coverage you and all of CNN do in keeping the facts straight.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  5. Annie Ding

    I think that Senator Mccain won this debate hands down. Obama was agitated many times by Mccain's attacks, he was not able to hold his own. Mccain made Obama to be risky, untrustworthy, naive, person with no experience especially national security, bad judgement, earmark and pork barrel spending, no solutions to make this country better, the list goes on.

    In addition, Obama fumbled many times calling Mccain by Tom and Jim etc. Who is the one with the senior moment.

    I have decided, Mccain is truly the leader and the command in chief for this country.


    September 26, 2008 at 11:29 pm |
  6. mike fogarty

    It is tragic not loss life or injuries brought the surge to Iraq. The loss of the house and senate and power in Washington is what brought the change. Some are willing to sell anything to power.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  7. Dee

    People are ignoring a crucial fact about Iran. The main reason against Iran is the fact that Iran is about to dump huge amounts of oil on the market. The only catch is that the oil will only be sold in Euro dollars. So basically our dollar will become worthless. Iran's disarmament agreement is contingent on getting 1 million tons of oil. The country has not received the oil that was promised. Ultimately, we are supposed to give Iran the oil.(alaska pipeline) To me that is extortion.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  8. sanjeev jha

    Ithink Sen.Obama held his ground very well tonight.Sen.McCain was only good in playing his opponent down.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:27 pm |
  9. Diana Frey

    John McCain showed how arrogant he truly is during the debate
    tonight. He would not look at Sen. Obama and repeatedly said
    that Obama did not understand, blah, blah, blah. This man has
    been part of the Bush administration from day one and now tries
    to picture himself as a "maverick". It is sickening to me that he
    wants the power so bad that he will do or say anything to attain his

    September 26, 2008 at 11:26 pm |
  10. adam

    O.K. So I watch the debate...After listening to the the pudnits response I am amazed... I originally thought it was just the average person was stupid. But if my buddy Chris can't see... I am convinced... lets just say thank god for Kieth...I am an average American, to put into percspetive I deliver mail for a living. your average Joe...I also have an I.Q. of 144, not quite a genious...just your average American! Watching the debate tonight was like watching one of my kids soccer games where they were winning 10 nil and the other team was still talking smack. If the American people can't rise above and step out of thier chicken Ship High In Transport or giva Fornication Under Consent of the King attitude I'll take the advise of the pharisees of today and leave this so called used to be greatest country on earth. I'm babyloned on how even more than 1 person in this country can honestly vote for Senetor McBable.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:24 pm |
  11. Scott

    If I have to hear 1 more person give Obama credit and downplay $18 Billion one more time I think I may flip. Sure when you put it up against the $700 Billion it doesn't seem like a whole lot. But keep in mind that $18 Billion is a TON of money. And it is that kind of ridiculous spending that keeps putting this country further and further in the hole. $18 Billion this year, $18 Billion next year, guess what people that is $36 Billion. At what point does this matter, when it hits $50 Billion?

    September 26, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  12. Wes Ketchem

    McCain is a war mongrel raised by military parents. His is a veteran and prisoner of war. All I see him talk about is war and more war and how well the SURGE is going. Bragging on the surge is like taking a laxative for a headache, walking around with a headache, and bragging about how well the laxative works.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  13. john j miller

    I remember reading Dale Carniage said, "You never tell a man he is wrong" as you will never reach a common ground. Is this not the apporach Obama took?

    September 26, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  14. Arnelia in Guam

    I notice how John McCain could never look Obama in the eye. But, Obama was willing to look him in the eye and to have a conversation with him. But, McCain always turned away.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  15. John

    We have a clear choice do we want a President that is smarter than most of us, or do we want another President who is not smarter than most of us, but shrewd and prone to react without thinking.
    The media puts a lot of stock in sound bites and not substance and all I can say is experience is the fruit of the tree of error. We don't need more mistakes, we need wisdom and clearly Obama has more wisdom and clearly McCain is out for the rich guy and the rest of us are just statistics, All this talk about the surge when the government of Iraq is more pro Iran than pro American. We need to get out, and the Iraqis need to level the democracy to their own citizens. We won that bad war, it is up to the Iraqi people to win their own peace.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  16. Michael Oxendine

    Was it my imagination or did McCain utter the word Cap as in if he were about to call Obama Captain.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  17. Belle in Las Vegas

    Not impressed with either......wish Hillary had been the DNC's annointed one instead of Obama.....and the line for line dissection from the pundits only gave me a headache so I shut the tv off.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  18. Ralph Pellegrino

    As a pilot my teacher always reminded me that I would not learn from my own mistakes, after watching the debate I would like to remind everybody about John McCain Judgement that caused him to be a POW, if John McCain would be the next US president we could be heading toward a world nuclear holocoust with preconditions, if Barak Obama would be the next US president we could be heading toward a world of so called American dream without preconditions.


    September 26, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  19. JR - PA

    Think this was basically a tie. Obama asserted his ability to stand his ground with McCain & projected knowlege on relevant issues. McCain was generally OK, but then he should have been on national security. Agree he is stuck in the past & offers very little on how he would mend our reputation globally. Also thought he appeared as the "grumpy old man". He kept saying Obama doesn't understand. Think that may have backfired as Obama came across as understanding very well. For the McCain staffer who lauded him for his statement about freezing spending as a measure when elected, that wasn't the question. The question was what in his platform would he have to give up as a result of the bail out? Actually thought that was a bad question because who knows what conditions will be when the candidate takes office. Conditions at that time will dictate how the Administration will proceed.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  20. Michelle Smith

    Was anyone else bothered at John McCain's KGB comment?

    September 26, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  21. Amanda Tompkins

    Just watched the debate, I felt like McCain was my grandfather telling me "old" stories. He was more worried about saying Obama was wrong and about the past than about today!! Obama had to of won this one!

    September 26, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  22. Richard

    I have found the debate very odd. I really think that McCain was very closed off to Obama, What I mean by this is, McCain would not look at Obama or even talk to him in a debate format. After the debate Obama and his wife walked over to McCain and his wife, and this shows me that Obama is willing to reach out to anyone, no matter if they do not share the same view. I hope that people can that people must face each other when the talk.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm |
  23. Isaiah Marks

    As i watch the debate take place both John Mccain and Obama struggle to answer some of the questions but to jugde who did the best in the debate is Senator Obama because John Mccain continued to talk about some of the same plans that did'nt work in the past and wont work now so him debating to still use some of the same plans just wont cut it and it's smart for Obama to take action on meeting with other country head leaders only to discuss solutions why because if you don't get understanding from other countries how can we keep America safe from harm? but i believe that this debate has givin Obama a nice boost in the polls.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm |
  24. Ella Ohio

    McCain gave a stump speech answer to almost every question. He got angry twice. You could not get McCain to go to the present or future, except on bailout question. Basicly McCain would run the country as it has been run in the past. I have heard McCain for decades on C-Span. I was actually embarassed for McCain. Maybe it is because I am over 65.
    I feel Obama did not make any big mistakes. For the first time I felt Obama would be a good President. He looked Presidential. I wasn't fearful to think he might be my President.
    I am for a mixed economy so I won't discuss the economy.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  25. kim

    We would like to know why McCain did not even look at Obama the whole time during the debate. Why Sen. MCCain never looked or faced
    Obama. He was so rude and so disrespectful.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  26. Sabrina

    Sorry McCain is stuck in the old days It"s time for something new. Too much past we need to look towards the future. Obama knocked it out of the park.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  27. John

    We have a clear choice do we want a President that is smarter than most of us, or do we want another President who is not smarter than most of us, but shrewd and prone to react without thinking.
    The media puts a lot of stock in sound bites and not substance and all I can say is experience is the fruit of the tree of error. We don't need more mistakes, we need wisdom and clearly Obama has more wisdom and clearly McCain is out for the rich guy and the rest of us are just statistics.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  28. Carol

    Did anyone notice John McCain's clearly disrespectful tempermen and body language.??? During this debate John McCain did not make eye contact with Barak Obama when Senator Obama was speaking, did not have a dialogue with Senator Obama but spoke to the moderator ABOUT Senator Obama as if he was not even in the room. I found this body language very telling as to the temperment of John McCain. He wouldn't give a fellow colleague the respect of ackowledging Senator Obama. His behaviour was rude disrespectful and degrading of the office of President. Is this how he will treat leaders of countries that he doesn't agree with in policy or principle. Talk down to them because they differ in opinions and strategies. I am not an American but would be quite concerned about this type of temperment and high level of disrespect to the point where John McCain couldn't even look Senator Obama in the eye. In fact as some points he even looked as if he had turned his back on Senator Obama. This is disgraceful and non presidential behaviour.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  29. Kevin

    I think McCain is a soldier and may make a great American general, but not a good American President. Obama said not only must we get out of "wars" but we must change the mentality that get us into wars. What a powerful paradigm and example to the world.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  30. Brian

    Debate was good. John Mcain was very disrespectful by not looking at Barrack Obama throughout the whole debate. Also, he was grinding his teeth in frustration. Obviously, at times, he let his temper get the best of him. Barrack held his composure, but should have been a little tougher. He tackled the issues at hand and made more sense. I thought Barrack won.


    September 26, 2008 at 11:11 pm |

    Obama clearly won the debate. McCain's body language and facial expressions showed a lack of respect for the moderator, he interrupted Obama and the moderator numerous times. This debate showed McCain's way of slinging mud and lies. Really ehat did McCain say that showed that he could change anything.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  32. SueAnn, Eugene

    I thought Obama did well since this is McCain's stonghold. It was interesting that the fact that the bail out will also include some banks in China and another country - I would have liked to have heard more about these facts (if they are facts). I am an independent and McCain seemed more of the same and Obama has my attention.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  33. Maggie

    Listening to the debate and hearing all the analyst make their comments only reinforce my thinking that some people do not need to even open their mouth. They are only voicing their own feelings and not what each candidate had to say. They do not even understand what they heard. Anyone with half a brain would see that if we value safety of our country and economy they would realize that Obama does not have a clue of what to do. I am sadly afraid that if and when the time comes for military stragedy he does not understand the definition of stragedy let alone coming up with one. He is so adamant about improving our economy but beast around the bush without ever coming to a point about any solution. He could not state what he would do without because he does not understand the question,
    therefore has no understanding of how to fix anything.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  34. Dave P

    John McCain is by far, the better candidate and will make the best president for our country during this time of War!!!! We need experience to secure our place as the Worlds leader. There wasn't much different in what McCain/Obama had in domestic issue's to sway me one way or the other. Gotta go with experience! McCain will be the clear cut winner come November....Guaranteed!!!

    September 26, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  35. Tarek Al-Jundi

    McCain said "we are giving money to countries that don't like us very much." He went on to say right after: "some of that money, is falling in the hands of terrorist organizations." How did Obama not comment on that?
    If a=b and b=c, then a=c. McCain, again admitted, that the U.S government, under Bush's policies that are parallel to McCain's; is funding terrorist organizations. Yet McCain still says going to Iraq was not a mistake.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  36. lynn_g

    Obama agreed with McCain too many times. He doesn't have the experience or the convictions that McCain has. Obama played off of McCain points.
    McCains experience goes without saying. Obama only has speaking experience.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  37. Anna in AZ

    McCain points out — accurately — that Henry Kissinger has suggested diplomacy at the Secretary of State level, not presidential summitry with Iran.
    I think Obama was being a professor again. Not really impressed with his long drawn out "you did not find Bin Ladden"
    It makes sense that Mccain wants to lower taxes for businesses so that it attracts people to keep them in our country, so that we are competitive with the world.
    I like Mccain tonight

    September 26, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  38. Sbaer

    This debate showed the lack of intelligence by Obama. He was constantly agreeing with McCain but could not develop his own opinion. The ignorance of Obama's World Affairs is unavoidable. For obama to be opposed to war but he is all for having "talks", what would he do in a position where action was needed, would Obama invite the enemy over for a chat? McCain 08!!

    September 26, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  39. Liz

    Unfortunately, I was only able to watch the last half-hour of the debate, but I found the focus group bar at the bottom of the screen interesting. It seemed as though most of the time the independent bar and the democrat bar ran in unison.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  40. Tarek Al-Jundi

    You tell your father, you will meet him for some family time and you don't, that could be a mistake you regret. You ignore a girl that could have been the love of your life, that...is a mistake.
    You wash your hands off of Afghanistan is a crime. McCain, said he made a 'mistake' he regretted and learned from when the government washed their hands off of Afghanistan. If washing your hands off of Afghanistan did not cost American lives, then it was a mistake. McCain, committed a crime and admitted it in euphemisms.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  41. Terry Curfman, Minnesota

    Did anyone else out there think McCains stand on foreign policy seem dated? The world is evolving John. it's not the Reagen era anymore.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  42. Lilibeth

    Hi David, are they unmoved because they're still undecided? Or are they quiet because they were rooting for McCain, but he didn't perform as well as they expected. I think McCain had some shining moments, but Obama held his own and argued his points very well. There will be 2 more presidential debates forthcoming; the ones still undecided in the bar should watch those.

    Take care,
    Edmonds, Washington

    September 26, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  43. Jane Stelboum

    Why aren't you adding up the scores from the analysts? When you add up the scores it clearly shows that Obama came out ahead...much more than the commentary after is indicating.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  44. Brenda M from Texas

    Analysts who say that the candidates say the same thing as they have on their campaign trail are right:

    McCain attacks Obama and doesn't address the question. His statements are empty and I can tell he has NO IDEA of what to do or what is going on.

    Obama addresses the question and talks about his plans for the future. His answers are very well thought out. It's not about him being a better speaker–it's about him knowing which direction he wishes to steer this country in, for the better, and he KNOWS what he will do to get us there.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  45. Jaime Mesa, AZ

    I think your take is right on. Why didn't anyone comment on McCain pulling out to "help" in DC, then finally come to debate. I think it was dead even, which Ultimately is a win for Obama because he did not really mess up and did seem "Presidential". I just wish sometimes that he was not SO nice I was FRUSTRATED that he kept saying "John is right...but let's be clear". He was NOT riht on a lot of his facts tonight, but actually appeared calmer then Obama...weird! Thanks ac360 for as usual excellent commentary and coverage.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:02 pm |
  46. Lynn X-Dem.now for McCain

    Obama came off as weak to us! Want to start another War??

    IM' for McCain all the way now!!! Thank you CNN

    September 26, 2008 at 11:01 pm |
  47. Paul Fowler / WY

    Obama didn't seem to know McCain's given name, and kept calling him by the wrong name. How do you expect him to handle foreign leaders? I don't believe the results of the lines during the debate. I am an independent voter and I am not leaning toward the democrats at all. Obama did not impress me.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  48. Ahmed

    McCain's conduct was totally condescending and non presidential today. Seems like his handlers told him him to use the words 'does not understand' in each answer.
    Confirms that he is too old to be any public official, much less the president. He should be on a golf cart instead of in the white house...

    September 26, 2008 at 10:59 pm |
  49. Charlotte S. Engle

    What about McCain's remark about Pallin ? His Maverick Partner!

    September 26, 2008 at 10:58 pm |
  50. Don, WA

    Well that might partly be because the candidates just got hot with each other when "time" ran out for each question – New Rule: When the candidates look at each other and take the gloves off – do not allow the moderator to throw in the towel – let them DEBATE FACE TO FACE!

    September 26, 2008 at 10:58 pm |
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