Repost of McCain’s pounding beats Obama’s rope-a-dope debate style

The polls and pundits say I was wrong in the conclusion I arrived at immediately after the debate. I’ll gladly take my knocks for writing this: Muhammad Ali mastered the rope-a-dope and beat harder punching sometimes flailing opponents. Obama allowed McCain to hit him with verbal attacks without stinging counter-punches. Perhaps he was hoping McCain would make mistakes to exploit with an effective comeback. He didn’t.

I’m in the 7% of Obama supporters who thought McCain won the debate easily, probably because I know many view the verbal sparring the way they do boxing matches. I guess I’m like the men Nora Ephron describes watching the debate with who want to see “knockout punches” and notes that “women are at a decided disadvantage in conversations of this sort: we have no interest whatsoever in the resemblance of presidential candidates to people like Rocky Marciano and Archie Moore“, the later light heavyweight champion in the 1950s.

Much of my reaction is comes from finding McCain’s personality and style turpitudinously repugnant, and wanting Obama to leap across the stage and slap the arrogant, obnoxious, condescending, scowling, belligerent braggart silly.

I want Barack to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, I want him to hit him with a Marciano “Suzie Q” right cross.

What can I say?

I took boxing lessons from a Golden Gloves champion when I was a kid, and, like Joesph Palermo, I’m one of those liberal males who are stuck with boxing imagery and metaphors (see his “Floats Like a Butterfly, Stings Like a Bee” from Feb. 2008 about Hillary vs. Barack.)

I remember watching Rocky Marciano beat his idol, Joe Lewis on television, and saw documentaries showing him winning his first championship against Jersey Joe Walcott knocking him out with his famous “Suzie Q” right cross.

Several positive reviews for Obama. A CBS News instant poll finds:

40% of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. 22% thought John McCain won. 38% saw it as a draw.

68% of these voters think Obama would make the right decision
about the economy. 41% think McCain would.

49% of these voters think Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq. 55% think McCain would.

Two focus groups, one by GOP pollster Frank Luntz and another by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, both declared Obama the winner. Here’s video of Luntz, some pretty powerful stuff:

Independents in the MediaCurves focus group “gave the debate to Obama 61-39. They also think he won every individual segment. Republicans gave the debate to McCain 90-10, Democrats to Obama 93-7.”


I hope the demeanor of McCain as “troll-like” and “grouchy”, the terms Chris Mathews used, has the negative effect some commentators suggest it will.

McCain is a bully and bullies are like trolls and can be grouchy. Unfortunately too may voters like bullies, and may in fact be bullies themselves. They probably find McCain a kindred spirit. I suspect McCain was the kind of kid who sought out the bookish boy with the pocket protector in the schoolyard and taunted him to impress his thuggish friends.

Image of troll trying to eat a cow is copy-free from Wikimedia.

The minute and a quarter split screen video of the blinky McCain’s smirking grin is already is reportedly being circulated all over the Internet.

Perhaps television pundits will replay it, and the Democrats will use it in an ad because it may turn the non-bullies off.

For the undecided Reagan Democrats for whom a good retort is worth 20 IQ points, I thought Obama was too cerebral. I liked that he was cerebral, but the point of the debate isn’t to prove to me he’s far and away the best choice, the only choice, to be president. It’s to get undecided voters to vote for him.

My wife, Betty, thought it was more a draw. My other bed mates, our ten month old Westies, Mac and Duff slept through the debate, and then when I slept an hour later than their usual wake-up time of 6:00 AM Mac wouldn’t stop licking my face until I got up to let them out and feed them.

Life goes on.

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  1. RichardKanePA

    What saddened me was that Obama didn’t again, like he did when trouble first broke out, urge both sides to stop misbehaving.

    Parts of Georgia wanted to remain connected to Russia. Whoever is right, Georgia had not business firing on Russian peacekeepers. If they attempted to escort the Russians back to the Russian border, escalation toward violence might have occurred anyway. Russian counter-reaction was less than what the US would have done if Chavez fired on US troops. All Obama had to do was mention a provocation and overreaction and called for both Ossetia and Russia to behave, and in my mind he would have won the debate hands on, and all our futures much more assured. But others tell me, if Obama did this he would have upset the powers that be, especially defense contractors and Americans who have particular concern for their countries of origin.

    I don’t know, but our relationship with Russia is far more important than arguing over Iraq.
    Sadly, RichardKanePA

  2. bryan mcclellan

    A song out of the past;

    Momma don’t allow no, Take it from there Hal.

    I warned em bout sticks and such!

  3. Hal Brown

    I hope the polls and focus groups are right! I agree about Obama. I am truly afraid that there is a now hidden group who will appear at the polls on election day, like zombies marching in lock step out of a fog in a horror movie, to keep the White House as white as their bloodless faces.

  4. jlmccreery

    Hal, I draw your attention to something I wrote for

    Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire reports,

    A new USA Today/Gallup Poll shows 46% of people who watched Friday night’s presidential debate say Sen. Barack Obama did a better job than Sen. John McCain; 34% said McCain did better.

    Again I am moved to think about what this means. Political junkies tend to see politics as a fight club and are constantly looking for attacks and points scored. What the polls and focus groups are showing is that Obama connected with the TV audience by looking into the camera and maintaining a calm, confident manner that people tired of political nastiness found reassuring. McCain looked old, nasty and out of touch.

    But thinking again, I see something deeper that observers blinded by their fight-club image of politics fail to see. Barack Obama is precisely the man he says he is, someone who believes profoundly that there are no Red States, no Blue States, just the United States, a country struggling to become a more perfect union. He doesn’t want to win a partisan brawl by crushing his opposition. He wants to win an election by demonstrating to Independents and moderate Republicans, as well as his fellow Democrats, that, while he can be tough if necessary, he is someone who will listen and search for common ground as well as clear differences. He wants to govern effectively, not just win an election. That makes him the unifier and not a divider that George W. Bush lied that he would be. The words are now tainted, so Barack will never say them. But that is what he wants to be.

    John McCreery

    If you are a U.S. citizen and live outside the USA, register to vote and request an absentee ballot.

  5. sherry

    Hal, this is a nail biter.The mentalist, Kreskin predicted the winner back in Jan. The only hint he gave was that it would not be Hillary.
    He has this written down in a lock box somewhere. My nerves are so shot, I am tempted to go looking for the box.

  6. adb8917


    This is complete and utter nonsense. I’m old enough to remember watching Emile Griffith kill Benny ‘Kid’ Peret in the ring on Gillette’s Friday Night Fights. It didn’t turn me off to boxing, but made me a lot more respectful about balling up my fist when I wanted to even the score.

    The same’s true about politics. When I played in that arena, I liked to think of it as an alternative to a blood sport, but with the same kind of adrenaline rush that came on election night. It was a game of clear winners and losers. But along the way the ‘game’ of politics became more gladiatorial, and it wasn’t enough to simply win, we had to degrade and humiliate the opposition.

    Today’s game has been corrupted even further into thuggish gangfights where honest and reasonable differences have been sacrificed for eye gouging and kicks to the groin. Your boxing metaphor perpetuates that bloodthirstiness, and that’s what’s so wrong about politics today.

    There is no question that we have major work to do to undo the damage of the last eight years of the Bush Administration AND the 14 years of GOP wingnuts holding this country in thrall. But if we start playing the scorched earth game as it has been played by the heirs of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, then we will further squander our remaining good will in the politics among nations.

    Is John McCain a bully? Unquestionably. Is he also erratic and irascible? Yes, again. But that makes him his own worst enemy, and if we’re going to beat him then we need to continue Obama’s strategy: Let John McCain demonstrate his inability to lead this country. Encourage the outbursts, and make clear that using ‘soft words to turn away wrath,’ does not mean weakness, but rather a strength of character and moral fiber that we haven’t seen in the White House in some 40 or more years.


  7. Elmo

    Pundits give more weight to style points than real people. Polls are all over the map and the McCainiacs have a flair for spinning booshwa into the Emperor’s Gnuhair Coat.

  8. ekaton

    Just like Gore in 2000, and Kerry in 2004, Obama’s assignment is to mount what appears to be a serious campaign, but whose goal is to lose to the neocons. McCain will win and the taxpayers will continue to be fleeced.

    — Kent Shaw

  9. EmanTX66

    Update from the Lone Star State.

    I work in a large office that represents a pretty good slice of the American populance, albeit with a Texas slant: more conservatives, church-goers, and gun owners. Sarah Palin had really energized everyone but that gloss has definitely worn off. Even the most hard-core Republicans in the office are getting angry over her reluctance to speak to the press and her abysmal showing when she does. All eyes will be glued to the TV this Thursday to what most here are predicting will be a blood bath.
    After the bailout crisis of last week even the office liberal pariahs such as myself are being included in conversations. More and more people are stopping by my cubicle to talk about the debate or a recent rally appearance by Obama. Most saw right through McCain’s “suspend the campaign” move last week and were not impressed. Most are conceding that McCain has more foreign policy experience but they don’t seem concerned about that anymore. This election appears to be boiling down around here to the economy and getting out of Iraq, both positions where most are agreeing Obama has the upper hand.
    I’ve really tried to report subjectively and hope I am seeing things as they truely are. Completely unscientifically I have to say that right now Obama is gaining huge momentum around the office and is definitely swaying the undecideds. If Palin somehow pulls one out of her hat on Thursday things might change but it has to be a win based on substance. It looks like the days of the zinger or cute one-liner carrying her are over.