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The Second US Presidential Debate - Live

Justin Webb | 02:03 UK time, Wednesday, 8 October 2008

NASHVILLE: These were my thoughts on the second McCain-Obama debate, jotted down as it unfolded:

2132: On verbiage - as S Palin would put it - Obama leads for sure; he repeated less and had some good lines. McCain seems angry and repeats lines from previous debates. So no disasters for either candidate but Obama edges it - I cannot see how the McCain performance enthuses the middle ground.

2129: A couple of general points about body-language: I thought McCain looked pretty good once he stopped prowling. He is lean and responsive. Obama is cool and tall but not so quickly responsive. Neither really engaged with the audience, partly because the rules did not allow it. McCain is back on whatever drugs lead you to say "my friend" every two minutes. They will be confiscated before next week. Obama cannot seem to begin an answer with a snappy yes or no or maybe - he has to change gears.

2119: Obama is getting McCain cross now - with another jab at his bomb bomb bomb Iran song. McCain tries a defence - it was a joke with a friend. He knows how to get Osama Bin Laden but he won't tell us how.

2116: Brilliant question from the audience on Pakistan - to pursue or not to pursue. Obama says he would. McCain, oddly, is making a different case. He may well be right (Obama seems not to realise what would happen in Pakistan) but it is dangerous for him. He sounds soft on terrorists, frankly. God knows what will happen if Sarah Palin finds out.

2111: Obama ignores a question about the effects of the economic downturn on US military power and hits McCain on Iraq. Brokaw asks a good question on the use of force when there are no national security issues at stake. Obama makes the case for intervention. But then unmakes it - the allies must do it as well. McCain agrees, pretty much.

2100: Interesting debate now on health with the fundamental issue of government intrusion. McCain is still in the anti-government mold, but Obama points out where he believes regulation works - in respect of insurance companies, for instance. I wonder whether recent events will affect the balance of view on this among viewers and voters...

2059: McCain does not answer either. The answer is that healthcare in America is a mess. Obama now says health is a right - McCain says it's a responsibility.

2054: To the question "Do you believe health care should be treated as a commodity" Obama fails miserably to connect. He does not say yes or no. He merely wanders into a stump speech take on his proposals. He is no Bill Clinton. He is no George Bush, frankly. YES OR NO!!

2053: Bush and Cheney! McCain mentions them with contempt. Contempt he must truly feel.

2047: The reply to the question about how to create new energy technology gives Obama a good line - that for 30 years Washington has done nothing. For 26 McCain has been there. Not really fair - he has tried, but quite a good line.

2046: McCain does repeat himself - he is on about Reagan and Tip O'Neil for the second time. He manages to avoid the appalling "Miss Congeniality" joke. But his basic message on tax is tough - he looks like a cutter but Obama not so much.

2043: Obama is on the attack on tax now - defending his tax proposals. Clinton (Bill) would have done a touchy-feely job here - who among you earns over 250 grand? etc. Obama prefers to lecture.

2040: McCain sounds angry - as some thought he had to. He talks of Senator Obama's tax secret that you don't know! But the tax issue is important and I suspect he is convincing to some - Obama also senses it and tries to come back but is steamrollered by Brokaw.

2038: Obama has a good line with McCain's tax cuts benefiting CEOs - who have gone from heroes to zeros in modern US iconography.

2033: Obama knows how much petrol (gas) is in Nashville. Interesting that he puts energy above health as a priority - he would not have done that before gas got so pricey.

2032: To the question: "What will you sacrifice?" McCain talks about cutting government programmes and Obama talks about cutting energy use. This is a clear difference and comes to the fore because the question was sharply focused.

2029: McCain is on the attack again - does this work? He is listing Obama's faults. Including millions of dollars for an overhead projector for an Illinois project! Convincing to those who don't think much of Obama, but I am not sure this gets to floating voters....

2026: I think McCain may be getting too close. He has a tendency to go up to the audience and prowl like a lion.

2021: McCain is on a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac attack - suggesting Obama and the Democrats let the two institutions go on a spending spree. This is a reasonable line, I think - it points out that much of the deregulation objected to by the Democrats (now) was actually supported by them at the time. Obama hits back with the deregulation on Wall St - and McCain's backing for it. And a good line - you're not interested in politicians pointing fingers.

2010: Obama gets it - he has no answer (it would be odd to name someone right now for either candidate) but he talks of the qualities the person will need.

2009: Oh gosh a weird answer from McCain to the question - who will your treasury secretary be? Not you, he shoots back. It sounds odd.

2008: Obama is up and running with a smooth riff on the economy - a populist swipe at some executives who have already misbehaved with taxpayer money.

2005: My great hope as the questions begin is that ordinary people are slightly better questioners than the first two utterly hopeless overpaid "moderators".


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