My Friends, My Friends, My Friends

October 8, 2008

By Alicia Long

There were high hopes for last night’s debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain.  With Obama widening his lead in the polls (his current lead is around 4-9 points nationally), McCain really needed this debate to help him turn the trend back into his favor.

The high hopes that McCain fans had for this second debate were justified.  Late last year, McCain had all been counted out in the race for the Republican ticket.  Some blogs even had reader polls as to when McCain would drop out (The Right’s Field had the longest running poll on this topic).  But McCain fought his way back using town hall-style meetings with thousands of New Hampshire residents all across the Granite State, and ultimately winning the January primary and rocketing his way to the Republican nomination.

Town hall meetings are McCain’s favorite way of communicating with voters, and he typically does very well in this format.  Many politicos felt that since the second presidential debate was a town hall, McCain had a good opportunity to reignite his campaign.  Unfortunately, he did not succeed.

I’m not saying McCain didn’t do well.  In fact, both Obama and McCain did well in this debate.  The popular opinion amongst the talking heads was that McCain needed this debate to be a game changer –  he needed to make a strong, new attack against Obama, or Obama needed to make a big gaffe – neither of which happened.  Both candidates stuck to their tried and true tactics and nothing really happened that made the performance of either candidate stick out.

This is not good for McCain.  This debate retained the status quo for voters, so one could argue that Obama “won” the debate.  Not because he did anything special or made better points than McCain, but simply because he came out of this debate the same way he came in… ahead in the polls.

CNN analysts thoroughly picked apart the debate last night.  This group is informative because it is compromised of Democratic and Republican analysts, as well as non-partisan journalists.  Overall, they rated Obama with a “B” and McCain with a “C.”  You can read more about their individual grades and opinions HERE (you can also give your personal grades through CNN’s online poll).

Just to mix things up a bit, I created tag clouds of Obama and McCain during the debate.  These tag clouds visually represent the 40 most frequently used words, with the biggest words being used the most frequently.

OBAMA TOWN HALL TAG CLOUD:

Visually, Obama definitely kept to the issues that are strong for him.  Health care, energy, and change were among the topics he kept bringing up.  Amusingly, the word he used most was “going.”

McCAIN TOWN HALL TAG CLOUD:

One thing I am not surprised to see in McCain’s cloud is the word “friends.”  I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “my friends” so many times in 90 minutes.  This is something he says frequently in his town halls, and last night was no different.  However this came off as less of a personable remark and just became annoying after the first half hour.

Thanks for reading my post, my friends.

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