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International media – Presidential debate II

COMMENTARY | October 10, 2008

The overseas press: An around-the-world sampling has Obama as the debate winner on points; the Times of India says the entire world has a stake in the election outcome and wants more from both candidates.

By Lauren Drablier

PARISMost commentators critiqued John McCain for his strategy of personal attacks toward Barack Obama and seemed disenchanted by his failure to shift his approach after sliding in the polls over the past week. Many sources had positive remarks about Obama’s performance, generally describing him as calm and confident throughout the debate.

Although most concluded by placing Obama in the lead, commentators did come across as somewhat disappointed with both candidates’ performances.  I would attribute this to the lack of clear outline that neither candidate was able to provide as to how to deal with the financial crisis. The Times of India was the best to highlight the serious implications the United States presidential election has for the rest of the world and emphasized that “the next president will have no time to cut his teeth; he must hit the ground running.”

In ‘Debate on economy is money in bank for Obama’ Canada’s Globe and Mail paints John McCain’s in a negative light and puts Obama in the lead:

“In the midst of a presidential election campaign that has become deeply personal and bitter, John McCain came out swinging Tuesday, accusing Barack Obama and his ‘cronies and his friends’ of causing the current economic crisis.

“The Republican presidential nominee maintained that his Democratic rival was responsible for the current economic emergency because he had allowed mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to back loans irresponsibly.

“But out on the campaign trail, things are getting truly dark. Consistently behind in the polls, and in trouble in every single battleground state, the McCain campaign has launched attacks on Mr. Obama's character and judgment, claiming he consorts with former radical William Ayers, whom it describes as a domestic terrorist.

“To the extent that talking about the economy benefits Democrats over Republicans, the debate rebounded to his (Obama’s) advantage. He also managed the town-hall format, of which Mr. McCain is a master, with equal dexterity.”

In ‘Economy dominates second debate’ France’s English news source, France 24, discusses the tensions between the two candidates noting that the “rancor was palpable” and in the end notes that Obama came across as the more relaxed of the two in the town-hall style debate:

“…between the two candidates, the rancor was palpable.

“Taking a swipe at his Democratic rival’s tax policies, McCain said that, “nailing down Sen. Obama's various tax proposals is like nailing Jello to the wall."

“But when McCain charged that Obama’s tax plan would adversely affect small businesses, Obama shot back with a, ‘I think the Straight Talk Express lost a wheel on that one.’

“The Republican candidate’s campaign bus is often referred to as the ‘Straight Talk Express’.

“FRANCE 24’s Guillaume Meyer said Obama fared better in the second debate than expected. ‘Surprisingly, Barack Obama was much more relaxed than expected,’ said Meyer. ‘John McCain is very used to the town hall format. Pundits were explaining that he would be more at ease with the format. But in the end, Obama seemed much more relaxed.’”

The Times of India in ‘No Breakthroughs Here’ focuses on the global implications of the financial crisis and what this means for the next president of the US with regard to the rest of the world.  The tone of the article was negative and described the debate as a disappointment:

“In a country that is seeing its fortunes being buffeted around brutally, hope is hard to sell. Which is perhaps why senator Barack Obama and senator John McCain refrained from peddling rah-rah dreams and promises when they faced off in the second US presidential debate on Tuesday night.

“It's not just America that was tuned in to the debate. The world has a stake in the prescriptions the two men have to check the contagion. If America goes bust - it is dangerously close to that - we will all have to pick up the tab in some form or the other.

“No one expects the Bush administration - widely held to be party to the mess that America and the rest of us are in today - to come up with eureka solutions. The next president will have no time to cut his teeth; he must hit the ground running. The second debate, which was expected to showcase the candidates' ideas for the economy, disappointed.

“We will just have to wait till round three for more substance.”

In ‘McCain and Obama clash in TV debate’ the UK’s BBC News critiques the style of debate for not allowing any real discussion to take place and compares Obama to a ‘great boxer who knows he is ahead on points’:

“God forbid, though, that any real debating should take place - both camps employ negotiators to limit the amount of time spent in "discussion" after each answer, more or less eliminating any prospect of real, sustained exchange that might catch someone out on network television.

“In fact, I thought Barack Obama did rather better, measured in manner and clear-minded in content where Mr. McCain seemed to spend too much time attempting to score points directly off his rival, with what felt like carefully-rehearsed digs that didn't seem quite to find the mark.

“Mr. Obama offered a performance reminiscent of a great boxer who knows he is ahead on points and only has to keep dancing backwards around the ring avoiding trouble to win. He didn't land many scoring punches, but then he didn't have to.

“He duly headed off around the ring on the offensive more than once, but he tended to telegraph his punches and they mostly felt like they missed their target.

“At one point, Mr. McCain tried to skewer Mr. Obama as a big-spending liberal by claiming he'd once voted for a plan to give $3m of federal money to buy an overhead projector for a planetarium in Chicago. I'm surely not the only viewer who spent the rest of the evening wondering what kind of projector that kind of money buys you.

“Mr. Obama seemed more relaxed than Mr. McCain - partly, no doubt, because he knows the polls show he is heading for victory unless his rival can change the race.

“Mr. McCain had gone for a soft note of slightly muted, husky sincerity which briefly made me think of Ronald Reagan's delivery, but mainly sounded like the tone of a children's storyteller with a sore throat.

“…neither had any surprises - and neither offered undecided voters anything they hadn't seen and heard hundreds of times before.

“Barack Obama emerged as the clear winner on the night in Nashville - if only because John McCain needed a game-changing victory on the night and he clearly didn't manage one.”

In ‘Barack Obama wins second presidential debate over John McCain in a snoozer’ the Telegraph (UK) criticized McCain’s attitude and disposition toward Obama and even called him ‘clunky’, ‘tightly wound’, and ‘old’.  Obama was applauded for his performance and described as ‘fit’ and ‘confident’:

It wasn't that John McCain was awful or made any huge mistakes but that he did nothing to change the dynamic of this race, which he's losing - and change it is what he emphatically needed to do.

“When McCain called Obama "that one" he seemed dismissive of his rival and it looked bad. To risk being seen as demeaning him when there are obvious racial sensitivities with a black candidate was not wise.

“Afterwards, the McCain spinners were complaining about the moderator and the format of the debate - a sure sign they felt their man hadn't done so well

“McCain seems disdainful of Obama and that's not a good thing to show so openly

“McCain was very repetitive between the first and the second debate, offering full sentences tonight (for instance about Putin) that were almost verbatim what he said in the first one.

“Obama has perfected a manner in these debates that is relaxed but serious, confident without being cocky and detailed enough without being wonky. It's serving him well. McCain's manner of delivery, in contrast, is clunky and he sees very tightly wound. He said "my friends" far, far too often. Obama's manner helps undermine McCain's message that he's "not ready".

“McCain looked very old tonight. Obama seemed fit and languid and commanded the stage. At times, when McCain moved around he almost looked lost.”

The Economist (UK) in ‘A draw that suits Obama’, does not explicitly state that Obama won the debate but does claim he scored slightly above his opponent and notes that perhaps the time has run out for McCain to change the race:

“The result was a draw in a predictable and mostly dawdling debate, but that undoubtedly suits Mr. Obama much better.

“During talk about foreign-policy Mr. McCain was energetic and returned to an old line of attack by suggesting that Mr. Obama does not understand the subject. But Mr. Obama responded sharply, saying that he indeed did not understand some things, such as the failure of Mr. Bush’s government to pursue Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and its decision to invade Iraq. Mr. McCain, for his part, was admirably clear on the need to support Georgia and Ukraine against any future menaces from Russia.

“Overall, the night did not provide good news for the Republican. He trails in national polls and, worse, is clearly behind in crucial states such as Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire and Ohio. He needed to change the race and failed to do so. His early personal digs in the debate played poorly in the town-hall format, and he may have realized it.

“Will he and Mrs. Palin return to attacks based on character and values? They have grabbed media attention by doing so, but have not dented Mr. Obama’s lead in the polls. Voters are worried about their homes and pensions, not about the 1970s or 1980s. Mr. McCain, who has shown a willingness to take risks, may yet seek out some new theme. But he is running out of options.”

In ‘John McCain's attack on Barack Obama falls flat at second US presidential debate’, Australia’s Herald Sun had similar things to say about McCain and Obama:

A combative John McCain set the mood when he dismissed Barack Obama as "that one".

“Struggling to reverse a slide in opinion polls as the troubled economy batters his White House hopes, Senator McCain allowed his disdain for his Democratic opponent to spill over during the town-hall style debate.

“But Senator McCain failed to produce the game-changing performance he needed during the tense encounter.

In ‘Obama, McCain and the second presidential debate’ El Sendero del Peje (Mexico) discusses the important need for the candidates to make a connection with the public.  El Sendero commended Obama on his ability to connect with the public when he discussed his plans for healthcare:

“As the evening went by, Senator McCain seemed to have more reasons to attack Obama performance in Congress, but very few explanations for the people he was talking to.

“When it was time to elaborate on health care Senator Obama shined for being able to explain why medical services and prevention were the people’s rights as opposed to McCain’s refundable tax credit that would go to private health care companies, who until now are known for cheating their clients. And that right there made the connection with the public.

“Other than a dirty campaign, I don’t see how Senator McCain can manage to convince people that his capitalist-in-denial plan can possibly be a good idea for crisis struck America.”

The Daily Nation of Kenya also emphasized McCain’s failing strategy in ‘McCain and Obama go for the jugular but keep it decent in round two’:

“Mr. McCain — who approached the debate with a promise that the ”gloves are off” and a series of hard-hitting attacks on Mr. Obama — signaled his intentions to go out aggressively early by ignoring campaign rules and answering questions by getting off his chair to approach the audience.

“Overall, Mr. Obama seemed to have come out of debate more impressively, which might be a severe blow for Mr. McCain.

“Mr. McCain has also been desperate to move the campaign away from issues (he is particularly vulnerable on his support for the discredited Bush administration, thus bears part of the blame for the financial crisis) and focus on the individual.

“The latest polls show that the strategy has not worked. Mr. McCain’s failure to score a decisive win at the debate further diminishes his chances.”

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