In the Arena

Next Day Thoughts

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If there’s been a rookie of the year in this year’s presidential campaign coverage, it’s Nate Silver–a baseball stats guy who has turned his talents to politics and produced some of the most creative slicing and dicing of polling numbers at his website Today’s offering is typical Silver: he takes the snap polling results and weights them according to the issues the voters considered most important–and finds that Obama won, according to the cross tabs, on the more important issues, thereby accounting for his snap poll victories.

As for me, the more I think about it, the more McCain’s performance annoys me. He seemed condescending and small throughout, whereas Obama was far more gracious and–I hesitate to use the cliche, but what the hell–likeable. For McCain’s dismissive posture to have worked, Obama would have had to seem as uninformed and overmatched as, well, Sarah Palin. But Obama was as well informed–indeed, better informed–than McCain, even on foreign policy, McCain’s alleged specialty.

Speaking of which, one wonders what the McCain campaign would be doing to Obama today if Obama, instead of McCain, had made the major foreign policy factual errors of the debate–calling Pakistan a failed state when Musharraf took over and screwing up the name of Pakistan’s new leader. (And, once again, McCain continued to insist that the flagrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the leader of Iran, even though there’s another guy, Ali Khamenei, was actually has the title Supreme Leader and controls Iran’s foreign policy and nuclear program. But then, as ever, McCain seems unwilling to change his locutions in this campaign, even when they are proven false.)

In the end–contra Nate Silver–I think that character dominates issues in these debates…and McCain’s discomfort–the effort he spent trying to control his temper–and disdain for his opponent did not wear well. I’m not so sure people are going to want him glowering in their living rooms the next four years…We’ll see how this plays out in the looser circumstances of the town hall debate, which comes next (after the Palin-Biden festivities next Thursday).