Neither heavy rain nor three thousand members of the media all crowded into one large tent nor the realization that Greta Van Susteren can't possibly weigh more than 90 pounds could keep me from last night's presidential debate.
Along with 2,990 other journalists (only ten were allowed into the debate auditorium), I was herded into the "Media Filing Center," where politicians and pundits stopped to give interviews and reporters from MSNBC, FOX and CNN pontificated live on the air. I walked around for a while and watched all that was going on, then found a seat and settled in to watch the debate.
I began the night expecting to be swayed toward one candidate. I was very surprised that it was the other candidate who appealed to me in the end.
Obviously, I haven't had time to fact check either candidates' claims, and I'll do more research before I make a final decision. But here were my impressions from last night:
Right off the bat, Obama struck me as giving some very vague answers. I often felt like he wasn't answering the questions at all (and was sometimes not even making any pretense of attempting to), but was instead reciting words and phrases ("middle class" comes to mind) that he had been practicing for months. I thought McCain, though also vague at times, did a better job overall of specifically answering the questions that were posed to him. He presented a much clearer picture of his ideas to me than Obama.
I liked that McCain named Warren Buffet as a potential Treasury Secratary, even after acknowledging that Buffet is an Obama supporter (and I think Warren Buffet is brilliant). We need a president who's wise enough to choose the best man or woman for the job, as opposed to his most ardent supporters.
On that note, McCain's consistent mentions of his bipartisan record really appealed to me. One of the things I like about McCain is that he's not the most popular member of the Republican Party. I saw this as a good thing, since I don't identify with the image of the typical Republican. He does have a reputation for being far more moderate than many of his Republican peers, and for working with Democrats. Bipartisanship is important to me in a president, it's rare in Washington, and I value it as a voter. I'm now wondering if it's true that Obama has never gone against his party leaders on any major issue, as McCain claimed several times.
I felt that both candidates were promising far more than they could possibly deliver. At times, they spoke of our faltering economy and pledged to get tough by freezing spending and cutting programs out of the budget that aren't working. Five minutes later, they were promising us tax cuts and health care refunds and new jobs and aid for Darfur and $15 billion a year to research ways in which we wouldn't have to depend on other countries for oil. I'm not so naive that I'm expecting our next president to save the economy and give me lots of new tax breaks at the same time. I don't want my taxes to go up, but that's about all I expect right now.
As far as actual plans, though, I couldn't help but be love McCain's proposal to double the child exemption on taxes, from $3500 per child to $7000 per child. That would be quite a big deal in this house. I had gone into the debate much more interested in Obama's tax plan than McCain's, but I came out of the debate really liking what McCain had to say about tax relief.
These are just a few thoughts I had. Of course, I was interested in their thoughts on foreign policy, energy, and the environment, but right now I think the economy is everyone's primary concern. My biggest concern about McCain is that he will put too much money and manpower into the war on Iraq. I don't really like either candidate's plan for the war; I'm still hovering somewhere between the two.
I realized even more last night that both candidates really are courting voters like me right now, middle class voters who aren't strictly tied to one party and haven't necessarily decided whom will get their votes, and I definitely got the impression that both of them were telling me what they thought I wanted to hear.
Well, McCain did tell me much of what I wanted to hear. Obama didn't. And the funny thing is that I went into it prepared to be absolutely bowled over by Obama. In fact, I was thinking yesterday afternoon that Obama would probably end up getting my vote. I was shocked at the end of the night to look through my notes and find that there wasn't one thing he said that really appealed to me, even though I had initially thought he would win my support. I certainly don't agree with McCain on everything. I don't think he'll make a perfect president. I may end up voting for him and later regretting it (*cough* George W. Bush, *cough*). But I think he may have a better handle on how to run the country.
I'm a little freaked out that I'm even writing these words. When I think of myself as a "Republican Voter," I think of people like Elizabeth Hasselbeck and Rush Limbaugh and Newt and I throw up in my mouth a little. I realize that a huge portion of my readership is pro-Obama (prObama?) and I expect some hand wringing to ensue over my thoughts. But I've opted to be honest here, and I will never be a diehard supporter of either candidate, so if you think you can change some of my opinions, by all means go ahead and try.
My next step will be researching both candidates' records at sites like Fact Check (although I've since learned that Obama used to be head of the foundation that runs Fact Check, which is worth noting), Sunlight Foundation, Politics Anew, and Expert Voter (thanks for the links, guys!). I realize I was subject to heavy, heavy spin last night and I want to find out what's really what.
Who appealed to you in last night's debate and why? I'd love to hear your opinions.
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