Okay, I am no plumber making more than $250,000 a year [Note to self: You picked the wrong occupation. Note to my plumber: Are you sure that I need gold pipes?]
But I know a losing debate performance when I see one — as do the American people. A CBS instapoll of uncommitted voters gave the debate to Obama 53% to 22%. A CNN poll gave it to Obama 58% to 31% and similar results were found by every focus group, incuding the one Frank Luntz (!) ran for Fox news, where not a single person thought McCain had won. Luntz said: “None had made a decision to support Sen. Obama before the debate, but more than half supported him after the debate. It was a good night for Barack Obama.”
You may find it hard to believe, but McCain actually has a serious debate coach. If the debate had been abstractly scored on points, McCain might have at least tied, since he employed the standard debate tactic of keeping some of his most substantive attacks for the very end of the back-and-forths, where they went unanswered. But McCain doesn’t need a debate coach. He needs a messaging coach. Even uber-centrist David Gergen said McCain “looked angry. It was an exercise in anger management up there…. The looks and the disdain and the contempt and the anger that he felt was palpable.”
Presidential debates are fundamentally won on two core character tests. First, does the candidates appear to be a plausible commander in chief? Second, can I stomach 4 or 8 years of listening to this person? Both candidates crossed the first threshold, but only one crossed the second.
Finally, we have the answers to Bob Schieffer’s big question about “energy and climate control.” McCain believes nuclear power is an issue that will win him votes. It ain’t (see “Note to John McCain: Uncommitted Ohio voters just aren’t into nuclear power”). He used the word “nuclear” six times, and made it a core part of his response to Schieffer’s query: “Would each of you give us a number, a specific number of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term?”
We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 new nuclear plants, power plants, right away. We can store and we can reprocess.
It’s kind of sad that one of the two people who might be the next president says this — it would be even sadder if he believed it. Nuclear power, of course, doesn’t even substitute for oil. It might some day if we had an equally aggressive government strategy to push plug-in hybrids into the market, but McCain does not (see “McCain proposes another energy gimmick, Part 1 — pointless battery prize. Is this another $300M to ExxonMobil?”). And it is exceedingly unlikely that more than a handful of these nuclear plants would be built in 7 to 10 years, so they are simply non-factors in the answer to this question (see “The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power, Part 1”).
Sen. Obama will tell you, in the — as the extreme environmentalists do, it has to be safe.
Look, we’ve sailed Navy ships around the world for 60 years with nuclear power plants on them. We can store and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, Sen. Obama, no problem.
So the point is with nuclear power, with wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, clean coal technology is key in the heartland of America that’s hurting rather badly.
So I think we can easily, within seven, eight, ten years, if we put our minds to it, we can eliminate our dependence on the places in the world that harm our national security if we don’t achieve our independence.
Obama’s responded as follows:
I think that in ten years, we can reduce our dependence so that we no longer have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela. I think that’s about a realistic timeframe.
And this is the most important issue that our future economy is going to face. Obviously, we’ve got an immediate crisis right now. But nothing is more important than us no longer borrowing $700 billion or more from China and sending it to Saudi Arabia. It’s mortgaging our children’s future.
Now, from the start of this campaign, I’ve identified this as one of my top priorities and here is what I think we have to do.
Number one, we do need to expand domestic production and that means, for example, telling the oil companies the 68 million acres that they currently have leased that they’re not drilling, use them or lose them.
And I think that we should look at offshore drilling and implement it in a way that allows us to get some additional oil. But understand, we only have three to four percent of the world’s oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil, which means that we can’t drill our way out of the problem.
That’s why I’ve focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. These have been priorities of mine since I got to the Senate, and it is absolutely critical that we develop a high fuel efficient car that’s built not in Japan and not in South Korea, but built here in the United States of America. We invented the auto industry and the fact that we have fallen so far behind is something that we have to work on.
If you saw the debate on CNN, which showed the real-time reaction of men and women, then you know that Obama scored some of his highest responses here.
People are hungry for positive leadership, especially on energy. Every time of the candidates talk about it, especially Obama, the higher the response.
Whoever wins the presidency will clearly have a mandate to take strong action on energy — and that may be the best news of all to come out of these debates.