This is my reaction immediately after the debate. I have yet to be spun by listening to anybody else talk about it... well, other than the handful of comments on the liveblog... and, well, by the focus group lines of the "Uncommitted Ohio Voters". And I will admit, that last is definitely spin and will have influenced my thoughts. For the last debate, I think I'll watch on C-Span... with no little focus group lines.
Look, basically this was a boring debate. Nobody did anything memorable at all. No attacks that stung. No inspiring moments. No nothing. Just pedestrian standard answers to predictable questions.
As such, it means that nobody who had already made up their mind will change their mind. At this point though, it is getting harder and harder to reach those people.
We are left with the small group of people who still haven't made up their minds. Which basically means people who don't pay much attention to politics and/or people who are just confused and have no idea who to trust or believe.
And this is where those focus group lines come in.
Without them, I would have said that Obama continued to be rock steady and to exude confidence and whatever quality is labeled "Presidential" while McCain for the most part did not. And just the mere fact that the two share a stage elevates Obama in the minds of people who may have had some doubts, and because of that it is a plus for Obama and I'd expect the trends toward Obama's direction from the past few weeks to just continue.
Having watched the lines though, I'd go even stronger. These were all "uncommitted" voters.
McCain was barely able to get his lines above the midpoint of the positive part of the graph. They peaked above there only a handful of times. Most of the time they just hovered around the neutral line, or barely above. The one exception was when he spoke about Russia. And the ONLY times I saw the lines dip below neutral were when McCain was speaking... and usually when he was attacking Obama... indicating that the undecideds were not going for that at all... and since his whole campaign is telegraphing that they are going negative, that does not bode well for McCain.
Meanwhile, Obama's lines were consistently in the top half of the positive range during the domestic questions, and around the mid-point of the positive range during most of the foreign policy questions. And they pegged the top of the meters on quite a few occasions. And they almost always were higher than McCain's responses on the same questions.
I think we don't just have a few undecideds moving toward Obama. I think we have undecideds breaking decisively toward Obama at this point.
If that goes beyond this little focus group, and is actually reflected in real polls in a variety of the remaining swing states, then we are just going to see Obama's lead grow, as McCain looks more and more helpless, ineffectual and lost next to him.
I guess we can only wait and see.
One more debate.
Unknown news events for a month.
And then election night.