A majority of debate watchers think Sen. Barack Obama won the third and final presidential debate, according to a national poll conducted right afterward.
Fifty-eight percent of debate watchers questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll said Democratic candidate Obama did the best job in the debate, with 31 percent saying Republican Sen. John McCain performed best.
The poll also suggests that debate watchers' favorable opinion of Obama rose slightly during the debate, from 63 percent at the start to 66 percent at the end. The poll indicates that McCain's favorables dropped slightly, from 51 percent to 49 percent.
The economy was the dominant issue of the debate, and 59 percent of debate watchers polled said Obama would do a better job handling the economy, 24 points ahead of McCain.
During the debate, McCain attacked Obama's stance on taxes, accusing Obama of seeking tax increases that would "spread the wealth around." But by 15 points, 56 percent to 41 percent, debate watchers polled said Obama would do a better job on taxes. By a 2-1 margin, 62 percent to 31 percent, debate watchers said Obama would do a better job on health care.
Sixty-six percent of debate watchers said Obama more clearly expressed his views, with 25 percent saying McCain was more clear about his views.
By 23 points, those polled said Obama was the stronger leader during the debate. By 48 points, they said Obama was more likeable.
McCain won in two categories. Eighty percent of debate watchers polled said McCain spent more time attacking his opponent, with seven percent saying Obama was more on the attack. Fifty-four percent said McCain seemed more like a typical politician during the debate, with 35 percent saying Obama acted more like a typical politician.
Nice job, Senator McCain.
Sarcasm aside, it was a bad day to come out swinging. Although I thought McCain did better tonight than in the other two debates, it was a bad day to be the angry, indignant old white guy. Not on a day when many Americans lost 5-10% of the value of their retirement assets held in U.S. stocks.
Update: New York Times:
Senator John McCain was in a groove early in the presidential debate on Wednesday night, looking Senator Barack Obama in the eye and chiding him over taxes, over his backbone in standing up to Democrats and over the Obama campaign's portrayal of Mr. McCain as the second coming of George W. Bush.
It looked like Mr. McCain might, just might, raise the level of his game in throwing Mr. Obama off his -- Mr. McCain's essential goal 20 days before the election, as he seeks a comeback in the face of declining poll numbers in battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and Virginia.
But then Mr. McCain began to undercut his own effort to paint Mr. Obama as just another negative politician. Mr. McCain grew angry as he attacked Mr. Obama over his ties to William Ayers, the Chicago professor who helped found the Weather Underground terrorism group. Suddenly, Mr. McCain was no longer gaining ground by showing command on the top issue for voters, the economy; he was turning tetchy over a 1960s radical.
"The facts are facts and records are records," Mr. McCain said, refusing to let the issue go. "He had a long association with him -- it's the fact that all, all of the details need to be known about." A few breaths later, as part of the same answer, Mr. McCain returned to the economy and the importance of creating jobs.
It seemed as if Mr. McCain was veering from one hot button to another, pressing them all, hoping to goad Mr. Obama into an outburst or a mistake that would alter the shape of the race in its last three weeks.
But for a punch to make a difference, the punch needs to do something to its target -- to rattle, to wound, or (best of all) cause the opponent to counterpunch in a self-defeating way.
If Mr. Obama, on the defensive, showed a bit more vim, vigor and vinegar than he had in the previous debates, he also remained calm, cool and collected for the most part -- showing survival skills that he learned in his brutal 16-month battle for the nomination against a tough inside fighter, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. That is all Mr. Obama really needed to do to freeze the dynamics of the campaign in place during the debate -- dynamics that by and large favor him.
Word. Doing rounds with Clinton helped Barack tremendously. He was such a solid winner tonight. I was glad to see the angry McCain emerge at last, and Obama was O-So ready for him. He laughed at McCain and got away with it, emerging a solid winner in the poll that followed.
Obama, baby, Obama!
- Transcript of tonight's debate: Link
Update: CBS News polling of uncommitted voters has Obama as the clear winner as well...
Fifty-three percent of the uncommitted voters surveyed identified Democratic nominee Barack Obama as the winner of tonight's debate. Twenty-two percent said Republican rival John McCain won. Twenty-five percent saw the debate as a draw.
More uncommitted voters trusted Obama than McCain to make the right decisions about health care. Before the debate, sixty-one percent of uncommitted voters said that they trust Obama on the issue; after, sixty-eight percent said so. Twenty-seven percent trusted McCain to manage health care before the debate; thirty percent said so afterwards.
Sixty-four percent think Obama will raise their taxes, while fifty percent think McCain will.
Before the debate, fifty-four percent thought Obama shared their values. That percentage rose to sixty-four percent after the debate. For McCain, fifty-two percent thought he shared their values before the debate, and fifty-five percent thought so afterwards.
Before the debate, fifty percent said they trusted Obama to handle a crisis; that rose to sixty-three percent afterwards. More uncommitted voters trusted McCain on this - seventy-eight percent before the debate, eighty-two percent after the debate.
But more trusted Obama than McCain to make the right decisions about the economy. Before the debate, fifty-four percent of uncommitted voters said that they trust Obama to make the right decisions about the economy; after, sixty-five percent said that. Before, thirty-eight percent trusted McCain to do so, and forty-eight percent did after the debate.
Before the debate, sixty-six percent thought Obama understands voters' needs and problems; that rose to seventy-six percent after the debate. For McCain, thirty-six percent felt he understands voters' needs before the debate, and forty-eight percent thought so afterwards.
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