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US rivals spar in first TV debate



A review of expert verdicts on the first 2008 presidential debate

Writer Verdict McCain score Obama score
Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress "All things considered, it's about a draw. McCain got a couple of good punches in and so did Obama. Insofar as the idea is supposed to be that McCain has a domineering advantage on national security he certainly didn't prove that point. And for the candidate who's losing, a tie amounts to a loss." *** ***
Jim Geraghty, The National Review Barack Obama failed in his main task - looking ready to take over on 20 January. His answers were halting early on and he "let his irritation / exasperation / disbelief" show, "it wasn't quite the right tone". Anyone wavering on McCain will have been "reassured a great deal". In that sense it was a "major win" for him. **** *
Kos, The Daily Kos Barack Obama was very effective. He proved he as well-versed on foreign leaders and countries, despite Mr McCain's continuous attacks that "Senator Obama doesn't understand / doesn't get it". The debate "reinforced Obama's fitness to be president". This was not a loss McCain needed bearing in mind his "lagging" poll numbers. * ****
Ezra Klein, The American Prospect "I haven't seen any poll or focus group that scored it for McCain. So Obama won. But... McCain was certainly more impassioned... His emotion, his passion, came from a nearly uncontrollable contempt for his opponent... He did an extremely good stylistic job in an extremely hard situation." *** ****
Arianna Huffington, The Huffington Post A good night for both candidates. "Final verdict: McCain back from the dead, but not nearly enough to seize the momentum in a 'change' election... after the dust has settled, the economy will still be in free fall, McCain will still be the guy who 10 days ago thought the fundamentals of the economy are strong, and 83% of the country will still be looking for a change in direction." *** ****
Hugh Hewitt, Townhall.com It was a "strong McCain win". He shined and put Barack Obama on the defensive. Obama "stumbled" on Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. McCain's closing remarks, when he hit Obama for his stubborness, were "very strong". **** *
Michael Tomasky, The Guardian "I've never been quite this confused about a debate in a long time... I thought each acquitted himself well on the other fellow's terrain... I don't think Obama's win, if that's what it was, was so decisive that the McCain team can't reverse spin it." *** ***
Gideon Rachman, Financial Times The exchanges on the financial crisis were "feeble in the extreme". McCain "became noticeably more confident and coherent, once the discussion switched to foreign policy". Obama was "relaxed, coherent and showed flashes of humour" and overall performed well. *** ****

The scores assigned to the candidates represent the BBC's interpretation of the writers' comments. One star indicates a poor performance, five stars an excellent one.



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