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Prediction: Debates Will Cost McCain The General Election

April 14, 2008

Yesterday, I read a multi-page analysis from the Politico’s John F. Harris & Jim Vandehei, detailing the political dangers facing Barack Obama in the general election should he win the nomination to represent the Democrats.  The piece predictably highlighted the various controversies and preconceived weaknesses that will supposedly continue to haunt him as the November vote looms, and suggested that the Clinton camp has restrained itself thus far in exploiting the bulk of it:

Republicans will also ruthlessly exploit openings that Clinton — in the genteel confines of an intraparty contest — never could. Top targets: Obama’s radioactive personal associations, his liberal ideology, his exotic life story, his coolly academic and elitist style.

The popular consensus I’ve gleaned over the last few months is that the majority of this war will be waged on the new-media battlefields of YouTube, blogs, and talk radio, with a mix of ads coming from agents of independent actors like 527 groups. Obama will be picked to shreds while McCain mostly sits on the sidelines, and the end result will be a disaster for the Democrats…or so the meme goes.

So, in light of the fact that I’ve seen scarce commentary on it, I’m going to go ahead and count my chickens before they hatch here for a moment, and predict that while Obama will certainly take his lumps, he will eventually find himself in the White House by utilizing a more old-fashioned forum: The presidential debates.

  VS.

Now, I can imagine what my readers might be thinking. “Um, Chen? By most accounts, Kerry won the debates in 2004, and he still lost. Debates are overrated”.  

That’s a fair point, but I should probably point out that we’re talking John Kerry vs. George W. Bush here.  It was like watching a spelling bee for 1st graders.  Sure, somebody won, but it was pretty tough to come away from it feeling particularly impressed.  They might as well have skipped them, quite frankly.

This time around, however, the stage is set a bit differently.  On the one hand, you have a young, highly educated, charismatic and articulate public speaker.   On the other, an aged, quiet and rather uninspiring man that is developing a track record of confusing basic facts (hence, my picture of Lieberman whispering into McCain’s ear; something he won’t have the benefit of come debate time) related to things that are considered his strengths (i.e. national security and foreign policy).   This could be the making of a political wrecking ball;  a situation where one candidate outperforms the other to the point of making him look like he doesn’t deserve to be on the same stage (as opposed to the 2004 situation, where neither of them appeared to deserve it).   Picture the highlight reels playing for days, complete with detailed analysis of the rout by the punditry and plenty of still shots of McCain’s scowls and assorted confused looks.   

I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that a strong showing such as this could overshadow many of the swipes that had been taken at him by the various surrogates and hacks.  The visual of a head-to-head comparison can be a powerful, memorable and well-publicised event, after all.   It certainly could be enough to tip the scale in a very close election, so, I’m putting this prediction out there.  Or, to channel Hans and FranzListen to me now and believe me later:  McCain gets smoked in the debates, and it costs him the general.

BTW-  Like all threads here in the Chamber, the comments section is left open indefinitely, so feel free to come back and mock (or praise) me right here come November.   Of course, in the unlikely event that Hillary gets the nod, I’ll have no choice but to acknowledge my little jinx, and post an update.

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36 comments

  1. Chen:

    On the other, an aged, quiet and rather uninspiring man that is developing a track record of confusing basic facts (hence, my picture of Lieberman whispering into McCain’s ear; something he won’t have the benefit of come debate time)

    That’s a fair point. At the same time, Obama won’t have the luxury of saying “What I really meant to say was…” that he has been given plenty of lately.


  2. Sounds like the predictions that i heard in 2004 that the debates were going to win the election for John Kerry.


  3. Ben-

    Sounds like the predictions that i heard in 2004 that the debates were going to win the election for John Kerry.

    That’s a good point. I remember thinking that, actually, although not so much out of confidence in Kerry, but more in the incompetence of Bush. As it turned out, they were both bad, and those debates were downright painful to watch. Kerry missed opportunity after opportunity to bury him.

    Oh well, I know I’m sticking my neck out a bit on this one. I’m a heck of a lot more confident in what Obama can do as opposed to Kerry, that’s for sure. It will be interesting to see how many debates they agree to and in what format, since that will probably factor into all this as well.


  4. Chen,

    I’ve heard several people say the same thing, in the debates Obama will prevail and this is how he will win the election. While I appreciate your optimism, I still have that sick feeling going all the way back to Bush/Gore and again 2004 Bush/Kerry.

    I hate to say it but there seems to be a lot of non-thinking sheep in this country who have lost their way. As much as I want to see Obama win, I’ve lost faith in Americans as a whole to do the right thing for themselves.

    I hope you are right though. I really, really do.


  5. CAll me crazy but has Obama actually been that great in debates ? I thought that was the knock on him,thinking on his feet. The debates offer some scripted moments but McCain can be polished as well as any turd. I think the Dem romantics are dreaming of Nixon/JFK when they make this statement. Nixon wins the debates on substance and issues but JFK wins on glam. The thing is Obama isn’t going to win for a number of reasons.


  6. What’s wrong with you guys? Chen is right.
    McCain, on a one-on-one with either Barack or Hillary, will get smoked. Debates don’t matter if it comes down to a question of who won. Debates matter if there’s a moment frozen in time.
    “There you go again.”
    Ford screwing up Poland.
    Dukakis sounding like a University Law Professor when asked if he’d be against the death-penalty if someone killed his wife.
    McCain is a perfect target.


  7. I’ll buy the frozen in time bit I just think that works both ways. One more sound/video byte of Obama coming off like he has in his recent gaffes and he doesn’t win 15 states.


  8. Kip:

    That same thing can be said of Obama. How many times has he had to apologize for or clarify a comment he has made? Several.

    As you said, debates don’t allow for that. They are moments frozen in time. You can’t give a speech afterward to make sure everyone knows how to interpret what you said.

    That isn’t to say that I see debating as a McCain strong suit. Far from it. But the Obama luster is getting tarnished lately, due mainly to what he says.


  9. GUFFAW!

    Hey Chen? How you like the bogus Rev. Wrights new 10,000 square foot home in the white suburbs? Hating cracker pays pretty well, huh? These clowns are as phony as a three dollar bill.

    Obama the debater? LOL!!! Obama is as lame on his feet as Al Gore. All he needs is to have his face painted orange and it will 2000 all over again. Have you seen your man answer a question that is not rehearsed? He’s a affirmative action soundbite, a racist and faux elitist with an American hating wife. The more Obama talks, the more empty the tank gets. Robert Johnson speaks the truth.

    As without charisma as McCain is, Obama is an empty suit and most intelligent folks (especially as corn cob, bohunk, gun toting, redneck, whitey types living between West Manhattan and Malibu) are now starting to finally recognize it. Hussein – a lib and a cheap one at that.

    But I am loving you apologists trying to excuse your lightweight of a candidate and his gaffes of infinite proportions.

    BRING ON THE ELECTION!


  10. Tex-

    But I am loving you apologists trying to excuse your lightweight of a candidate and his gaffes of infinite proportions.

    First off, thanks for stopping by again buddy. I missed ya.

    This whole “gaffe” thing might just inspire my next blog entry. I should discuss it with regards to all the candidates I think, and in relation to the media’s role in making a “gaffe” a “gaffe” or if any particular comment is a “gaffe” as it stands on its own. For example, when the pundits on the news networks endlessly debate the damage that a particular “gaffe” might do to a canditate’s political aspirations, would it wind up being the relentless analysis, spin, and debate that does the damage, or is it the “gaffe” itself?

    /things that make you go….hhhmmmm


  11. The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows John McCain leading Barack Obama, 47% to 42%. The presumptive Republican nominee also leads Hillary Clinton 50% to 40%. Among unaffiliated voters, McCain leads Obama by eight percentage points and Clinton by fifteen.”

    “Overall, among all voters nationwide, McCain is viewed favorably by 55% and unfavorably by 42%. Obama’s ratings are 47% favorable and 51% unfavorable. For Clinton, those numbers are 42% favorable, 56% unfavorable (see recent daily favorable ratings). Among unaffiliated voters, McCain is viewed favorably by 55%, Obama by 47%, and Clinton by 34%.”

    Usually by this time, even the worst of the Dim Presidential candidates have a lead. Dukakis actually lead all the way thru April before he fell apart and got his ass kicked. It’s McCain’s to lose boys and girls…

    And although your candidate gives pretty sound bites for the bobble-headed lemmings of the lefty side of the party, I haven’t been terribly impressed when he is left to his own accord.

    Muwahahahahahaha…..


  12. Clinton and that chipmunk she’s married too – restraining from reporting the dirty lowdown on Barack Obama. I can’t buy that, I’m sure every rock crevice and cranny has been overturned looking for smut on him.

    The only way I see the senator losing this is by election fraud, and I personally don’t care who thinks – things like this doesn’t happen in our Red White and Blue – Hogwash.

    He’ll smoke McCain in a debate.


  13. I said:

    It will be interesting to see how many debates they agree to and in what format, since that will probably factor into all this as well.

    I’ll also add that the moderation and what particular questions and topics are addressed will effect the battlefield. Case in point, tonight’s Dem. debate: THE REPUBLICAN TALKING-POINT DUMP, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE DEMOCRATIC DEBATE


  14. Tex,

    “Usually by this time, even the worst of the Dim Presidential candidates have a lead. Dukakis actually lead all the way thru April before he fell apart and got his ass kicked. It’s McCain’s to lose boys and girls…”

    So, in a historical sense, does that mean that since McCain is leading now he will ultimately lose the general election? or does it mean that polls taken this far out don’t really mean that much? There’s still a long way to go.

    And as far as debates are concerned, just the visual presented by a McCain-Obama matchup is bad for McCain. It’s youth vs. age, future vs. the past, all that stuff– just like in the Nixon-Kennedy race. Should be good debates though, regardless.


  15. And as far as debates are concerned, just the visual presented by a McCain-Obama matchup is bad for McCain. It’s youth vs. age, future vs. the past, all that stuff– just like in the Nixon-Kennedy race.

    Believe I heard those words before…thinking…thinking…thinking

    Oh yeah! Bush I vs. the mind numbing Dukakis

    I got some news for you Tommypaine. What it means is that because of Obama’s snobbish ignorance as indicated in San Fran (ironic, in of all cities Obama shows his true colors – he fits right in out there) and faux elitism, those 30 states that Kerry lost are already in the bag for McCain unless he really screws it up. We saw how popular Big O was in Ohio. You’ll find that people between Pacific Palisades and Boston don’t like being referred to as “little gun-toting, corn-cob smokin’ people.”


  16. After the other night, I wouldn’t bet much on Obama beating McCain in a debate.

    Obama did so poorly, he doesn’t want to have any more debates during the primaries.

    Imus got it right.


  17. Thanks for the condescending “news” tex. You’ve opened my eyes, especially since I was unaware that Obama’s quote contained the words “little gun-toting, corn-cob smokin’ people.” However, I will restate that it is premature to predict a McCain win, especially to the point of saying he’s got 30 states “in the bag.” There’s a long way to go, and the democratic nomination hasn’t even been decided yet. Perhaps we can revisit this in June or August or October.

    P.S. I don’t think you can compare this to Bush-Dukakis, somehow I don’t see Obama sticking his head out of a tank like an idiot.


  18. Tommy,

    The Age of Aquarius for your candidate is over – the effete candidate is being exposed like his phony minister.

    How many kooks from honky hatin’ preachers, to ashamed to be American wife, to slum lords, to domestic terrorists does Obama need to be married to before even you Tom Paine lib types say whoops?

    P.S. I don’t think you can compare this to Bush-Dukakis, somehow I don’t see Obama sticking his head out of a tank like an idiot.

    No. He just puts on his bowling shoes and racks up a 37! YEEHAW! Four year olds do better than that by throwing between their legs. The man needs to lift some weights and practice up. 37 at the alley says he’s also a sissy man and lives in the gutter…(pun intended).


  19. tex–

    I love going tit-for-tat about whose candidate is the worst as much as the next guy. However, it has nothing to do with the point I made about it being too early to call the election for John “I don’t know the difference between the people we’re fighting” McCain.

    Also, if anything, Barack Obama’s bowling performance actually made me like him more because I can’t stand bowling. But that’s just my opinion, I know I’m in the minority since bowling is quickly becoming the new national pasttime, and those lucrative endorsements are just lining up for the champion bowlers.

    How a natural athlete with a mean jump shot can be called a “sissy man” for not being a good bowler is beyond me, but maybe I too am living in the gutter (bad, unfunny pun intended).

    P.S. Is Obama really married to Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, and Michelle? I had no idea they had relaxed polygamy laws in Illinois!


  20. P.S. Is Obama really married to Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, and Michelle? I had no idea they had relaxed polygamy laws in Illinois!

    Damn, you’re clever Tommy with the humor. I just knew somewhere I would read above about the Pope being a Nazi following along the idea of good HBO lib humor.

    Obama’s married to a lot of things…infanticide, exorbitant taxes, socialism, “change”, and gimmicky sound bites to name a few. I never thought Hillary Rotten could look impressive in comparison. The world’s dumbest woman just ate your boy’s lunch in a debate and you want to brag on him? I love progressive group think.

    I don’t know about Obama being a natural athlete with a jump shot? Olive Oil had broader shoulders. I’ll bet Obama can’t get the ball to the rim. He couldn’t handle a 16 lbs bowling ball better than a 4 year old. And now you want to tell me he’s a superior athlete? Kind of being like a superior debater?

    Should we wait until about August and lay some bucks on whose candidate fares worse? Trust me, I’m no McCain man and think him a particularly lame candidate – but at least he’s got a life story. Obama’s the bobble-headed lemming, affirmative action candidate.

    Here’s the question I would like Obama asked at the next debate: Do you feel O.J. Simpson was innocent of the murder charges?


  21. Tex-

    I don’t know about Obama being a natural athlete with a jump shot? Olive Oil had broader shoulders. I’ll bet Obama can’t get the ball to the rim.

    Here ya go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daH0ltD20A0


  22. Chen,

    LOL! WOOOO HOOOO! Of course, my ten year old daughter when she weighed about 60 lbs did that with frequency some years back – but the “set” shot did look better than the whiff down the bowling alley.

    HE’S GOT MY VOTE CHEN! or…if I were a Tom Paine progressive:

    It was staged! Trick fauxtography!!!


  23. I’m glad you noticed the sarcasm, tex, cuz I was laying it on pretty thick in that last post : )


  24. Well Tommy,

    As a left-handed compliment I have found Chen and most of his crowd to be some of the “sweeter” libs. Of course, you can be friendly and still be completely irrational. But at least most of you are friendly, Chen included.

    Chen may be the only good-ole boy lib I’ve met. I don’t know if he smokes a corn-cob pipe (more likely a bong) but he’s someone you wouldn’t kick out of the neighborhood. I’ll bet he even waves at his neighbors and doesn’t suffer anxiety attacks in a conservative crowd.


  25. Well thanks for that compliment Tex. I do, in fact, wave to my neighbors quite often.

    Anyway, back OT, and back to why McCain is going to get crushed in these debates. I present you, Exhibit A: McCain Stumbles on H.I.V. Prevention

    Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”
    Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”
    Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”
    Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”
    Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”
    Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

    This is going to be slaughter, I say. It’ll just be a matter of Obama delivering the knockout while he’s on the ropes.


  26. Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”
    Mr. Hussein Obama: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare (massive group hug for Dimocrats whose mother’s thought better of abortion but were too lazy to get one).”
    Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”
    Mr. Hussein Obama: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me. What’s an HIV?”
    Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”
    Mr. Hussein Obama: (Long pause) “I agree with the incomparable Rev. Wright that Caligula was America’s greatest President…and that the American government created AIDS to destroy people of color! (tremendous explosion of clapping from the liberal, white bobble-headed lemmings of the progressive party!!!”
    Q: “Senator Obama…do you still believe the ban on partial birth abortion should be overturned?”
    Mr. Hussein Obama: Absolutely! We of the Dimocratic party feel infanticide is a right granted by the Creator! (Massive explosion of applause followed by a singing of Kumbaya!)


  27. Very clever Tex. Of course, I didn’t have to make up the part I quoted.


  28. Chen,

    Besides Caligula and a little exaggeration about the ignorance of Obami, what part is not true? Colorful allegory perhaps but your boy has no problem with doctors jamming their scissors into the back of a viable baby’s head, everything exposed but the skull, collapsing the head, and calling it a woman’s right to choose. That is a fact and exactly how the procedure is conducted.

    Did Obami not try to overturn the partial-birth abortion ban? In days of antiquity, they used to call the Obama types Baal worshippers…now we call them Dimocrats.


  29. I should really give you the Magic Uprights; since your rather silly attack on Obama involved shifting from the issue of HIV prevention to abortion.

    But I’m in a good mood.


  30. While you do there Chen, why don’t you provide yourself the Wonder Palm for this jewel of a revelation:

    On the other, an aged, quiet and rather uninspiring man that is developing a track record of confusing basic facts…

    You want to tell me what your candidate has done that would equate to McCain’s POW record, including refusing to leave, knowing that he would be used as propaganda? Yeah, give me the run down of what Obama has done to be inspiring except that he’s black, he’s lib, and he’s “hip” to rubes like you.

    Chen, you live in a world of leftist group think and PlayStation 3.


  31. Tex-

    I’ve already offered up a multitude of posts on why I’m supporting Obama.

    McCain certainly wasn’t the only guest the the Hanoi Hilton, and I don’t think it’s relevant for any of those other guys either. Well, on second thought, maybe it is relevant to McCain’s position on torture, since he has firsthand knowledge. Other than that though, I don’t see how it really helps him in the debates. I was calling him uninspiring in the context of a public orator anyway.

    And “leftist group think”? That’s at least the second time you’ve brought that up. I’m not sure it means what you think it means:

    Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight.

    I’m posting this on my own, drawing from my own personal observations, and backing them up with examples while I’m putting out a bold prediction that I haven’t seen out there. Furthermore, in addition to the exposure to others’ arguments afforded by my blog’s open comment section, I’m posting in the Alliance and actively pinging (therefore inviting) those of diverse ideologies to come and challenge my viewpoint. Point of fact, Tex, what you are seeing here is exactly the opposite of groupthink.

    BTW- I don’t have a PS3….yet.


  32. General Chen,

    You have an incredible gift for tunnel vision as do your many of you “colleagues.” For somebody that apparently likes to write and has a gift for creativity as indicated by the design of your blog, you don’t seem to grasp the simplest of euphemisms.

    Consider: (1) You call McCain uninspiring and use as support he wasn’t the only one at the Hanoi Hilton. I am still pondering the idiocy of your statement as even the most insane ought to grasp why the story is inspiring. Of course, when you take America for granted or hate it like that gawd awful Kip woman, anything of heroism becomes irrelevant I suppose. So I have to keep reminding myself of that simple fact.

    Let me put on my leftist hat for a minute and talk to you and your clowns in language that bongers, slackers, unaccomplished and undistinguished liberals, progressives, or whatever label you apply to yourselves today might understand:

    A DANE’S VIEW OF OUR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

    ‘We in Denmark cannot figure out why you are even bothering to hold an election.

    On one side, you have a bitch who is a lawyer, married to a lawyer, and a lawyer who is married to a bitch who is a lawyer.

    On the other side, you have a true war hero married to a woman with a huge chest who owns a beer distributorship.

    Is there a contest here?’

    Capiche?


  33. First of all, Obama also has a record of confusing basic facts. Recently, he stood at a rally and claimed that he visited 57 states.

    Second, you’re making the assumption that Obama’s great speeches will translate into a great debate performance.

    Rallies are festive and therefore easily to perform in. Debates are more adversarial. Obama is use to talking AT people. He’s not use to being in a situation where he has to back up his claims in a debate with an opponent with opposing views.

    Third, you’re assuming that Obama’s questionable associations (with Rev. Wright, Ayers, Rev. Pfleger, and Tony Rezko) won’t damage him too badly. By the time the debates began, no one may be listening. If the GOP defines him as a far left liberal with questionable judgment and radical influences, then the only thing that John McCain may have to do is keep breathing.


  34. […] I suppose I should note that, back in April, I predicted that these debates would cost McCain the election.   With only one debate remaining, I […]


  35. Poll taken should McCain 87% won
    Obama 12% Lost

    Then comes along CNN Polls and Obama wins every time.

    Mc Cain will win by a landslide wait and see
    380 electorial votes for MCCain
    130 for Obama

    Will all the Democtac’s then move to Darfu or Sudan I don’t think Canada wants any of them.


  36. In my opinion you are not right. Let’s discuss. Write to me in PM, we will communicate.

    By the way, what do you think about this icons site?



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