Please do not answer the following poll if you didn’t answer yes above. I know a lot of candidate backers want to create the impression that there’s been a big swing by saying they’ve swung to their candidate when they already were for their candidate. So take a powder on this and let’s see whether there’s any real shift. Thanks.
We’re live blogging the presidential debate at Hofstra University tonight, or — as the Daily Show blog puts it — “The Scoff-stra at Hofstra.” Bob Schieffer of CBS is moderating the debate. Jeff Greenfield, longtime media watcher, has an article on Slate above how Schieffer can shake things up a bit. His opening paragraphs, however, actually reveal how time inside the Beltway has rendered Greenfield utterly incapable of being an observer, otherwise he wouldn’t dismiss the criticisms of the debates so far so easily.
Let’s see. So far we’ve had drinking games and bingo games based on the debate. Now, Comedy Channel has come up with the “Energizing Your Base” game, but caution: adults only.
Nick Gorski of Stillwater has just sent us this picture of a Halloween decoration in his community:
Gorski says people are stopping to have their picture taken with the display.
4:41 p.m. – My wife sent me the latest email today that claimed all sorts of “facts” and a dark past for one candidate. Appropriate, then, that CNN has a piece on its Web site now about how candidates hit back — or not — against these online efforts.
5:04 p.m. – Just in: Conservatives win in Canada, but not enough for a majority in Parliament. Quick: Name the prime minister of Canada!
5:43 p.m. – Take that, Greenfield. Justin Webb of the BBC says the woeful performance of the moderators in this presidential debate season isn’t our imagination:
So will tonight’s debate moderator, Bob Schieffer, rescue US broadcasters from the woeful depths? I see no great hope in this piece, but the hopeless, incompetent, lazy, cringe-inducing performance of the “anchors” so far will not be difficult to improve tonight.
5:50 p.m. – Behind the scenes, is Barack Obama trying to goad John McCain into bringing up William Ayers’ name this evening. The New York Times’ politicos suggest it:
Mr. Obama may have been trying to goad Mr. McCain into bringing up Mr. Ayers tonight when he said that Mr. McCain was too afraid to bring him up in the last debate. Mr. McCain said Tuesday that Mr. Obama’s suggestion that “I didn’t have the guts” to bring up Mr. Ayers last time “probably ensured” that it would come up this time. It is possible that both candidates are trying to create a climate that will force Mr. Schieffer to bring the matter up.
6:06 p.m. – Via Romanesko, the academics are saying pretty much what you’d expect the academics to say on the subject of the “dial-testing results” on CNN during debates.. a sort of “mood ring” of those being surveyed:
“It has no scientific validity — it’s not a sample of anything that has generalized validity,” says Rutgers Univeristy’s Cliff Zukin.
It’s true, it may not be scientific. But so what? Why can’t it simply be interesting. There’s nothing scientific about the talking heads or spin rooms. There’s nothing scientific about what academics you choose to comment, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have some value by virtue of being interesting, and lead to further depth — later — by exploring the why of a reaction rather than the what of it.
From what we’ve seen in the debates so far, the unscientific sampling is turned off the stump speeches and turned on by specific answers to questions. From that alone, we can extrapolate that the focus group is smarter than all of the moderators in the debates so far.
7:30 p.m. – We’re 30 minutes away. This production tonight is costing Hofstra $3.5 million.
7:57 p.m. – Bob Schieffer has just been introduced. I have to admit, he’s #1 on my list of people I’d love to have dinner with. He says he only wishes Tim Russert were still alive to be there.
8:00 p.m. – Both candidates are now on stage. They both greeted each other warmly.
Q: Why is your economic plan better than your opponent’s
McCain: Says — three times — that Americans are angry. Again calls for government to buy mortgages of homeowners. (CNN Fact check: Would this shift burden to taxpayers)
Obama: Calls for cracking down on companies shifting jobs overseas, allow people to access IRAs without penalty. Middle class tax cuts necessary.
Discussion: McCain talks about “Joe the Plumber” and says Obama would raise taxes. He says Obama’s response to Joe would be to “spread Joe’s wealth around.” Obama says Joe’s been getting his information from McCain’s campaign ads.
“Why would you want to increase anyone’s taxes right now?” McCain asks.
“I want to cut taxes for 95% of Americans,” Obama says. Acknowledges Warren Buffet will pay more in taxes, to give more to Joe the Plumber.
How happy are you right now if you’re this guy?
This year’s deficit will be $455 billion. Your proposals will add to the deficit. Won’t some of your programs have to be trimmed or eliminated? (Here’s a link to the group that showed both candidates would increase the deficit)
Obama: Says bailout will mean taxpayers will get their money back but acknowledges people have lived beyond their means. Says he proposed a net spending cut. Schieffer — God bless him — asks him to answer the question. Obama says investment in health care will save money in the long run. Same with education. “We’re not going to be able to go back to our profligate ways. (He didn’t answer the question)
McCain: If we can start increasing home values, we can create wealth. “But what are you going to cut,”Schieffer asks. McCain says we need nuclear power, offshore drilling. “If we become energy independent, we will create jobs.” Calls, again, for an across-the-board spending freeze. (Note: He put defense outside this freeze in the last debate.)
Discussion: Obama tackles McCain’s opposition to earmarks. Says it is only 1/2 of 1 percent of the budget. Notes that there was a surplus when Clinton left office. (There was also 9/11, and a war that Obama voted for.)
“If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should’ve run four years ago,” McCain says. Notes that Obama has voted for tax increases, and voted for an energy bill “full of goodies for the oil companies that I opposed.” Says Obama hasn’t stood up to his party leaders.
Obama says he voted for tort reform, clean coal technology. “I have a history of reaching across the aisle.”
Politifact has looked at McCain’s assertion and found it to be true.
Are each of you willing to sit at this table and say to each other what you’ve said in your commercials?
McCain: Regrets negative tone that he finds unacceptable. Criticizes Rep. John Lewis for his remarks on hate speech. Says Obama didn’t repudiate remarks. Says he’s repudiated all remarks that were “out of bounds.”
Obama: Says 100% of McCain’s ads have been negative. “That’s not true,” McCain says. “It is true,” Obama said.
Not sure what the point of the question was here, to get the candidates to take responsibility for the negative ads, or to juice up tonight’s debate. Unless I missed it, there was no mention here of William Ayers.
McCain says Obama is running ads saying he opposes stem cell research. “I don’t,” McCain says.
Obama says Lewis was “troubled” by “kill him” and “terrorists” and says Palin didn’t stop the peuople shouting it to tell them it was out of line.
“You’ve got to read what he said,” McCain said. “I’m proud of the people who come to our rallies.” He says, again, he’s repudiated those who were out of line.
Obama: “What I think is most important is to solve the key problems we’re facing…. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans… we’re going to have to be able to work together and disagree without being disagreeable.”
McCain: “I don’t care about a washed-up terrorists, but we need to know the extent of your involvement.” Also says ACORN has committed one of the biggest voter frauds in history.
Obama: Says Ayers has become the centerpiece of McCain’s campaign. Says Ayers is a professor of education. Acknowledges he engaged in “despicable acts” when Obama was 8 years old. Says he and Ayers served on a school reform board funded by “one of Ronald Reagan’s close friends.” Notes that several Republicans served on the board. “Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign.”
On ACORN, says they were paying people to register votes and some people didn’t register people, “they just filled out a bunch of names. It had nothing to do with us.” (Good article on this in NewsWeek.)
McCain and Obama sparred on the assertion that Obama “launched his campaign in Mr. Ayers living room.”
Q: Why would the country be better off if your running mate became president rather than his running mate?
Obama: Joe Biden has some of the best foreign policy credentials. In his entire life, he’s “never forgotten where he came from.” He’s been on the right side of the issues.
McCain: Palin is a reformer. She has ignited the party. Also talks about advocacy for special needs kids. ( At what point does the federal government’s refusal to fund special needs mandates become a question?)
8:46 p.m. Outside the debate hall, a protest has made the street look like September in St. Paul.
Q: Give us a number of how much you believe we can reduce foreign oil imports in your first term?
McCain: We can eliminate dependence on Middle East and Venezuela. Calls for 45 new nuclear power plants “right away.” Says Obama’s contention that storage has to be safe is the view of “extreme environmentalists.”
Fact: We import 17% of our oil from the Middle East. We import 11% of our oil from Venezuela.
Obama: Also believe we can eliminate Middle East imports. Wants to put resources into solar, wind and biodiesel. Wants a “use ’em or lose ’em” policy on current offshore oil leases.
How are you enjoying the debate? I think it’s the best debate so far, but our commenters think it lacks substance. I’ll have to watch this again later. Schieffer seems to know when to get out the way.
8:54 p.m. The question started on energy. Somehow we got onto free trade.
Q: Would you favor controlling health care costs over expanding health care coverage?
Obama: “We have to do both.” Says his plan lowers costs, that the average family’s premium could be reduced by $2,500. If you don’t have health insurance, you could buy into the same pool that Congress uses.
McCain: Reduce costs by putting health care records online. Wants phys ed programs in school. Wants to give American families $5,000 refundable tax credit . Talks to Joe the Plumber and says Obama is going to “fine you if you don’t get Obama’s health care plan.” Is Joe the Plumber and Joe Sixpack the same guy?
Obama: “Here’s your fine, Joe: Zero,” Obama says, because his plan exempts small businesses. Says right now we pay $900 a year in higher premiums because of the uninsured who go to emergency rooms and/or are picked up by Medicare. Obama also looks into the camera and speak to Joe. What about Bob?
Obama says McCain’s $5,000 tax plan will cause 20 million people — older, less healthy — to lose their employer-based health care coverage.
McCain smirks and Obama says “that’s your plan, John.” McCain, still smirking, shakes his head “yes.” Major mistake in body language by McCain.
“Hey, Joe, you’re rich,” McCain says, noting that Joe’s business is doing so well, he doesn’t get the “zero” fine. Did Obama just maneuver McCain into defending the rich?
Note: Here’s a good site for comparing the candidates’ health care plans.
Q: Could you nominate someone to the Supreme Court who doesn’t support your position on Roe v. Wade? (Abortion)
McCain: Says he wouldn’t apply a litmus test and disagrees with Roe v. Wade. ( McCain reportedly wanted to consider two men who were pro-choice for vice president. Reportedly, the abortion issue prevented him from doing so.)
9:10 p.m. Here, McCain said something interesting. He would judge people on their qualifications, but then seemed to say someone who supported Roe v. Wade wouldn’t be qualified. I’ll have to doublecheck that quote later but it may have been significant.
Update 9:50 p.m. I checked the transcript. here’s what McCain said:
I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those qualifications. But I certainly would not impose any litmus test.
I guess we could parse that any number of ways. Looking back, I think now he was saying that a judge’s record on abortion cases would not be considered.
Obama: Also says no litmus test but says he strongly supports Roe v. Wade.
McCain says Obama voted in the Illinois Senate that denied immediate medical attention to a child born in a “failed abortion.”
Obama says “if it sounds incredible that I voted to withhold care from an infant, that’s not true.” He says the bill would’ve undermine Roe v. Wade and there was already a law on the books that required life-saving treatment. On partial birth abortion, “I’m supportive of a ban on late-term abortions as long as there’s an exception for the mother’s health and life. ”
Background: Interesting column in St. Petersburg times on Obama and abortion.
McCain: Res Obama’s language, he says “health” of the mother (he says with finger curley q’s) could mean just about anything.
Despite spending the most money on education, by most every measure, we trail the rest of the world. Is this a national security issue?
Obama: There’s never been a country that saw its economy decline and was able to keep its military powerful. Calls for more investment in early childhood education to close achievement gap. Need to recruit more teachers with higher pay in exchange for higher standards. Says parents need to do more and turn off the TV and video games.
McCain: It’s the civil rights issue of the century. “Choice and competition is one of the key elements.” Embraces charter schools, and full in-state tuition programs.
Also said this:
“We need to encourage programs such as Teach for America and Troops to Teachers where people, after having served in the military, can go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations which — or have the certification that some are required in some states.”
(It’s an interesting proposition but for discussion purposes, why should some teachers not have to be certified if they were soldiers first? Here’s the Troops to Teachers Web site. From what I can tell, the program does not wave certification requirements. But if you’ve become a teacher through this program, I’d love to do a post about it. Please contact me.)
Q: More money for schools from federal government?
Obama: Brings up the refusal of the federal government to pay for special education, but stops short of federal money. Also says he supporters charter schools, despite opposition of teachers unions. Opposes vouchers (basically, choice).
Obama served up a fat pitch to McCain here by saying “you can’t just propose things and not say how you’re going to pay for them. McCain missed the pitch.
McCain: Says No Child Left Behind was a “great first beginning, but it had its flaws.” McCain says “spending more money isn’t the answer.” Then says Head Start is a “great program” and adds it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do. Brings up Palin’s
autistic baby (the baby has Down Syndrome), says “we’ll find the money to find a cure,” and then somehow connects it to school funding and vouchers but , frankly, it was too disjointed to follow the thought.
Update 9:55 p.m. – Here’s what he said. Looking back on the transcript, it actually was the most disjointed moment of the debate:
But, again, spending more money isn’t always the answer. I think the Head Start program is a great program. A lot of people, including me, said, look, it’s not doing what it should do. By the third grade many times children who were in the Head Start program aren’t any better off than the others.
Let’s reform it. Let’s reform it and fund it. That was, of course, out-of-bounds by the Democrats. We need to reform these programs. We need to have transparency. We need to have rewards. It’s a system that cries out for accountability and transparency and the adequate funding.
And I just said to you earlier, town hall meeting after town hall meeting, parents come with kids, children — precious children who have autism. Sarah Palin knows about that better than most. And we’ll find and we’ll spend the money, research, to find the cause of autism. And we’ll care for these young children. And all Americans will open their wallets and their hearts to do so.
But to have a situation, as you mentioned in our earlier comments, that the most expensive education in the world is in the United States of America also means that it cries out for reform, as well.
And I will support those reforms, and I will fund the ones that are reformed. But I’m not going to continue to throw money at a problem. And I’ve got to tell you that vouchers, where they are requested and where they are agreed to, are a good and workable system. And it’s been proven.
Obama: Says he supporters charter schools and the two squabble over where the mayor of DC supports vouchers.
McCain: We’ve had a healthy discussion. Uses the phrase “my friends” for the first time tonight. Pretty standard stump speech. If you’ve read down this far, you’ve probably heard it and don’t need me to retype it.
Obama:Says America is going through tough times. Gives the “same failed policies” stump speech. If you’ve read down this far, you’ve probably heard it and don’t need me to retype it.
Schieffer concludes by ofifering advice from his mother: “Go vote now. It’ll make you feel big and strong. The candidates shook hands. “Good job,” McCain said to Obama.