The First Debate:

It appears that the general consensus is that your guy won, whoever 'your guy' is. Obama supporters point to the focus groups, which suggest that he did well among undecideds, chiefly because they liked his economic answers better, and the economy is big-time #1 on people's minds right now. The actual subject of the debate, foreign policy, was a McCain winner.

Sixty-six percent of uncommitted voters think Obama would make the right decisions about the economy. Forty-two percent think McCain would.

Forty-eight percent of these voters think Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq. Fifty-six percent think McCain would.
So, what are the 'right decisions' about the economy that Sen. Obama stated he would make? Well, spending: 'spend, spend, spend, no freeze on spending, and here's a few more spending programs I'd like to do.'

The problem is, that decision is at variance with basic reality. Assuming there is no bailout bill, the economy could turn south in a severe and lasting way, drying up the taxpayer pool. Assuming that there is a bailout bill in the next little while, the government's capacity for such new spending is going to be quite limited. Once we've added $700B to this week's budget, just where is this additional money coming from? McCain's approach -- that we will need to cut or at least freeze spending levels on noncritical programs -- is not just right, it's necessary. There is no alternative.

McCain supporters point to the fact that Obama got flustered numerous times, and was clearly out of his depth on foreign policy issues. The problem for Sen. McCain here is that no one is thinking about foreign policy this week. However, if the bailout gets credit flowing and things start to improve financially, attention may return to it before the election -- this is a store of goods that may yet prove more valuable.

First impressions of the debate are rarely lasting. Given time to reflect, things that sounded good at first may sour. McCain's campaign would do well to hammer not just the point they've been hammering -- that Sen. Obama said 'McCain is absolutely right' a bunch of times -- but also the point that there is just no way that Sen. Obama can actually do what he's claiming he will do economically.

Sen. Obama's response to economic distress is to ramp up spending in every area. This isn't merely 'countercyclical' economics: we're getting that with the $700B bailout. Trying to stack vast new spending on top of that is a refusal to admit to reality.

Finally, a number of people are talking about the OODA Loop again:
John McCain out-thought Barack Obama early on, and increased that throughout the debate.

I don't pretend to know if John McCain is smarter than Barack Obama, but in their first head-to-head, it was clear that thinks faster on his feet.

Looking back through the campaign season at the various "3 A.M." moments and the candidate's reactions, this doesn't appear to be an isolated event.
As we've discussed before, Sen. McCain's reported IQ is reasonably high: at 133, in the 98th percentile. It wouldn't be at all surprising if he were more intelligent than Sen. Obama, because he'd be more intelligent than most people.

That doesn't necessarily translate into votes. Still, Sen. McCain manages to be intelligent without being pretentious, and that can be powerful with voters. No one wants a dunce for a President, but they also don't want someone who thinks he knows better than they do how to run their lives.

Message for tonight: the economy is #1, and for now voters haven't realized just how big $700B is, and how it will cut into future government spending. We can't have it all, and will have to prioritize. Sen. McCain promised to do that. Sen. Obama refused.

Foreign policy is almost considered a distraction at this point, but it will be important in the next term. On that ground, Sen. McCain is vastly superior.

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