So, perhaps it's not the best of news for McCain that FoxNews' undecided voter focus group had only four voters who made up their minds... all in favor of Obama... and I just saw CNN's focus group, where three undecided voters made up their minds... all for Obama.
Another focus group... this one by Stan Greenberg of 50 undecided voters in Colorado. Republicans and Independents outnumbered the group by almost 4 to 1, and yet half of the voters thought that Obama won the debate, with 24% giving McCain the victory and 26% seeing no clear winner. . . Once again, the focus group dials dove whenever McCain went on the attack, particularly when he talked about Bill Ayers and ACORN. . . The audience that gave McCain a 54/24 favorability rating, rated him 50/48 at the end of the night, whereas Obama started off at 42/42, but climbed to 72/22 after the debate.
I'll be reporting on the snap polls shortly, but I'lll just say this... it seemed to me that John McCain made arguments that just won't appeal all that well with undecided / independent voters... and going negative didn't score many points with undecided voters, and perhaps helped to turn them off to McCain's entire message... like the boy -- or old, curmudgeony guy -- who cried wolf. If you can't believe the attack, and question the judgement of making it when the country is facing so many serious issues, and immediately after talking about how bipartisan you are... well, it damages the trust that you hope that people will have in you.
CNN poll results are in 58% Obama, 31% McCain.. ending with a 66% approval rating, up 3% from before the debate. McCain ended at 49% approval, if I remember right... the same approval rating as from before the debate.
CNN was a bit tenuous when it came to their results, in that they had 10% more Democrats in the poll than Republicans... although there are clearly more registered Democrats than Republicans this year... so they broke down the polling to show just the response of independents. They gave Obama the debate, about 53% to 33%. Only about 4% of Democrats thought that Obama lost the debate, while about 9% of Republicans thought McCain lost... not a huge shift there as far as party loyalty, but it does indicate that a substantially larger amount of Republicans might be open to switching their votes, or might not be all that motivated to vote in the first place.
CNN's poll also pointed out that 80% of the respondents thought that McCain was more negative, and 70% thought Obama was more likeable. So, apparently going negative backfired, at least according to the poll data. Whether or not it left a seed of doubt in Obama's answers to the attacks remains to be seen... but I didn't see anything that McCain brought up that couldn't be addressed and would cause serious damage to Obama in the next few weeks.
The CBS snap poll results were even more decisive than CNN's polling. Who won? Obama 53%, McCain 22%. Who are you voting for now? Obama 28%, McCain 14%.
Ultimately, this was a debate that McCain needed to win decisively in order to quickly reverse the trend. Clearly, his performance tonight, in and of itself, is not a game changing result. It seems to me that by now, most Americans have made up their minds, or at least are leaning in one direction or another. Most favor Obama... the ground game of the election clearly favors Obama... the advertising favors Obama... and the increasing obviousness of this fact is really starting to tip the overall argument.
Frankly, if this were the first debate, I think lots of people would view it as pretty even, with maybe a 10% difference in the polling. The fact that they aren't means one of two things -- or maybe a combination thereof -- either Obama did substantially better than McCain on the issues that matter to people, or most people are already leaning towards Obama anyway, and see him as their next president.