One of my predictions prior to the debate was that the media would score it for Obama this time. I based my prediction on the fact that in the previous two debates the media had generally called it a draw or giving McCain a slight nod, and when proclaiming Obama the victor, never coming close to scoring the debate as dramatically as polls have consistently shows. As such, I assumed that the media would have learned from the past two debates, and not wanting to be embarrassingly wrong yet again, would after seeing the same general trends unfold, call the debate for Obama. Needless to say, I was wrong. Matt Yglesias has a good theory.
To me, the crux of the matter is that McCain can’t get out of the habits that served him very well when he was a Senator building a glowing national reputation largely by talking directly to elite members of the political press.[…]
[…]For example, he alluded at one point to a desire to allow more imports of sugar ethanol. Now if you’re familiar with the details of the ethanol debate, you’ll know that McCain’s stance on this is correct on the merits. And you’ll also know that Obama is a big support of corn ethanol both because they grow corn in downstate Illinois and because they made a big push for the Iowa Caucuses. McCain, by contrast, has a long and principled record on corn ethanol that’s hurt him in Iowa. This isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it is a nice illustration of some of McCain’s key campaign themes. And yet he didn’t try to explain it at all. Similarly, he’s had a knack for besting Obama on national security issues nobody cares about, like the relationship of US-Colombia trade deals to the US-Venezuela proxy conflict playing out in the Colombian jungle.[…]
I actually pointed out the corn ethanol point to my roommate last night, who as a “swing voter”, had no previous conception of the issue, or even what the ramifications might mean or say about the candidates. Meanwhile, I thought — and I imagine many of the well informed pundits thought — “wow, that’s a great point.” Similarly, I tend to grow frustrated when Obama can’t perfectly encapsulate the concept of adverse selection, but Obama probably had most people at “I believe health care is a right.”