With the third and final Presidential Debate behind us it is clear that while none of the candidates delivered the knockout punch, Barack Obama did emerge as victorious in all of the three debates.
According to Gallup, roughly two-thirds of Americans tuned in to watch each of the three debates, with 63 percent for the Sept. 26 debate, 66 percent for the Oct. 7 town hall, and 65 percent for the most recent one. According to polls conducted by CNN/USA Today/Opinion Research Corp., 58 percent of debate watchers saw Obama as the winner of the last debate. Thirty one percent thought McCain did a better job.
"The poll also suggests that debate watchers' favorable opinion of Obama rose slightly during the debate, from 63 percent at the start to 66 percent at the end. The poll indicates that McCain's favorables dropped slightly, from 51 percent to 49 percent."
At a time when people were looking for answers to their questions on the economy and jobs, health care and gas prices, John McCain focused on attacking his opponent more than offering any solutions. Eighty percent of debate watchers, according to the CNN poll, thought McCain was more on the attack.
On the economy, the dominant and most important issue at hand, "59 percent of debate watchers polled said Obama would do a better job handling the economy, 24 points ahead of McCain."
Although McCain spent significant amount of time attacking Obama on taxes and claimed he would raise taxes to "spread the wealth around," debate watchers sided with Obama by a 15-point margin (56-41). On health care, "by a 2-1 margin, 62 percent to 31 percent, debate watchers said Obama would do a better job."
Obama also scored higher marks for clarity in expressing his views (+41), coming across as the stronger leader (+23), as well as likeability (+48).
McCain won in categories he'd prefer not to: "80 percent of debate watchers polled said McCain spent more time attacking his opponent," compared to 7 percent for Obama. He also won in the "who seemed more like a typical politician" category 54-35.
Perhaps McCain's taking of a more negative and aggressive tone backfired. For example, 51 percent said that Obama's ties -- or lack thereof -- to Bill Ayers did not matter to them at all. The alleged ties to Ayers was one of the main points of McCain's attempt to make the case that Obama was not trustworthy and should not be elected the next president. As Obama was quick to explain, Obama served on an education board with Ayers, who now has a Ph.D in education and teaches at an Illinois university, along with a number of others, including one or two Republicans. He further explained that when Bill Ayers and his domestic terrorist group carried out their attacks on U.S. government buildings, Obama was eight years old. McCain's attack -- which did continue and continues to air -- is one of the most ridiculous in his camp's attempt at discrediting Sen. Obama.
While dirty politics may have its merits -- or may have had in the past -- given the state of the economy and the many challenges we face, I seriously doubt such tactics would resonate with the American people. What we have seen in the past several weeks has shown us that Sen. Obama -- and not John McCain -- is the more calm and collected, more mature and intellectual, and the more trustworthy and reliable candidate. Whether it was in choosing their running mates, or their response to the Wall Street crisis, the two men demonstrated their ability -- or lack thereof -- at handling crises and at leading us in the right direction.
Barack Obama, in making the right decisions and showing the right kind of judgment in what were their first executive decisions, passed the test with high marks. John McCain made us more nervous about him and perhaps reinforced the notion that he acts on impulses, has bad temperament, and lacks the right judgment to lead this nation.
Below are some more polls from Gallup (Click images to enlarge):
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