Friday, October 03, 2008

The Little Lines

We watched the debate on CNN last night because I am fascinated by their viewer response graph.

I was skeptical of the idea during the first presidential debate but it turned out that the viewer responses were a dead-on indicator of where the polls went immediately in the days after. While the punditry wanted to call it for McCain, the graph didn't agree, and neither (as it turned out) did the rest of the public.

Last night I watched the graph very carefully and it looked to me like Palin fell flat quite often. She seemed to excel on the bread and butter issues, as did Biden... obviously that's very much on everyone's mind. As is the greed of Wall Street. As is energy, which is fortunate or unfortunate for Palin because "drill-baby-drill" barely registered a blip while talk of pioneering alternative energy went through the roof. Most of the time Palin opened her mouth on foreign policy the little lines returned to the middle. It seems folks are either tired of the old neo-con approaches or else they're wholly not buying that Palin knows what she's talking about.

After I got done with my post last night I tuned in to get the post-debate spin and was floored to find Fox News euphoric with her "win". Win? Whoa. Pat Buchanan on MSNBC was practically orgasmic, as was Roger Simon. I read this as perhaps relief that she didn't pull a Couric but c'mon... the secret was that she could recite her little cue cards without any follow up questions. She's still the same candidate she was last week. Gwen Ifill, for all of her supposedly being "in the tank" for Obama, certainly didn't bother to hold either candidate's feets to the fire. It was precisely what I thought it would be except Biden performed much better than I'd anticipated.

I do not understand what people think is so amazing about her. The convention speech that shot her to superstardom (which she then recited verbatim during the three weeks following) was akin to her just standing up and reading a script. A script designed to be sarcastic and partisan and rally the base, which it did. Not a bad introduction, but where's the rest? It's ridiculous. And now she's announced she's going to bypass the mainstream media by going "directly to the people" via speeches? All that means is more scripted speeches and no follow up questions. I hope people realize that.

The instant CBS and CNN polls seem to agree with the little graph lines... Biden won handily among undecideds. I think that's because Palin was pretty clearly reciting rehearsed answers, limiting her ability to engage effectively with rebuttals. She was also extremely condescending with her little folksy-isms. I'm not from a "big city" and I don't know anyone -- not even from the small mid-state cities I'm familiar with -- who would speak like that. It was such an obvious, cynical ploy that I found it very off-putting.

I am relieved beyond belief that "the middle" seems to have learned the lesson I was praying they'd learn from Bush, that the guy you most want to have a beer with is not necessarily going to make the best leader. They're not falling so easily for Ms Congeniality this time. I've held a very negative opinion of the shallowness of American voters after 2004 but it seems they've finally internalized the lessons of the past eight years. Sure, the far right is ecstatic to have someone who is "just like them" (oh, yay!) but everyone else seems to be ok with someone who is just right for the times.

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