Progressive Revival

Senator Obama had a good night at Ole Miss.

He dominated the opening discussion on the economy and held his own during the discussion on foreign affairs. Translation: signficant night for Senator Obama.

I appreciate the fact that Senator McCain is opposed to ear-marks. If fact, after tonight, Senator McCain seemingly believes that our future prosperity and existence is solely dependent on ending ear-marks. Where there are ear-marks the people perish seemed to be Senator McCain’s philosophy of life. Again, I appreciate his passion and understand the need to get ear-marks under control, but his singular focus was over the top.

It was a pretty poor political strategy, too. I’m fairly sure Senator McCain already has the Republican and Republican-leaning crowd who are one- or two-issue voters; those issues being ending ear-marks and diminishing government programs (doesn’t matter if they’re good or bad, just end them.) So, he was talking to a crowd he already has. That’s not a good use of 90 minutes.

Senator Obama, on the other hand, talked about change. He provided a larger vision for the American people than just ending ear-marks and demonstrated empathy for those families struggling paycheck to paycheck. “Where there is no vision the people perish” was on display from Senator Obama. Frankly, Senator Obama had the poise, confidence, empathy and knowledge to be President of the United States.

On foreign affairs Senator McCain did a great job of showcasing the names of leaders and geography he holds due to nearly 30 years of government junkets to various places around the globe. Senator Obama doesn’t have that kind of experience but he was right there with Senator McCain on perspective and knowledge. He held his own against McCain – on McCain’s strong suit.

I’m watching Fox News at the moment and instead of attempting to argue that Senator McCain had a good night one or two of the commentators are reaching into the history books for past debates to point out that sometimes the victor of the debates lost on Election Day.

Hmmm… in Internet vernacular: LOL.

Tonight was important. I approached this debate with a brooding seriousness and desire to deeply listen to all the comments and ideas. With the economic challenges we are facing (I’m thinking first of families losing their homes and retirees losing their pensions… Wall Street second) millions of Americans are starting to pay close attention. We all realize the seriousness of the choice we will make in about 40 days. In this context I found Senator McCain flat. His vision for the country was seemingly contained in ear-marks and controlled spending and Senator Obama went toe to toe with him on foreign affairs.

Maybe what really happened is that Senator McCain lost and that’s how Senator Obama won. Well, McCain certainly contributed to Obama’s good night.

What a night. I know the candidates are glad it’s over. I’m sure the initial moments back stage after the debate were ones of embracing spouses, sitting back in their respective green rooms and simply talking with and being with any family in attendance and only the closest of staff. Everyone is bolstering their candidate with words and hugs of encouragement. I bet each candidate is focused on some particular moment. Maybe a moment no one else remembers but that particular candidate does because he thought the camera caught him looking tentative or confused. Everyone says “no way.”

After a few minutes and a bottle of water its back to work… off to plane and the next days events, a few press calls, maybe a quick stop by a local debate watch party. And, of course, there’s the meeting with the senior staff where the gloves start coming off with honest critiques about failed moments and what to do better the next time.

I think Senator McCain needs to take his gloves off and ask his staff to re-evaluate their message strategy for the next two debates. With Senator Obama performing at such a high caliber they can’t afford to get their message, on the economy, wrong again.

Isn’t it interesting how tough economic times can take divisive, social issues off the table? 90 minutes and no discussion on the traditional hot button issues took place… no attempts to divide and conquer. They didn’t come up. No one insinuated them into the debate.

Values voters are voting the values they hold for the economy this year. Its about the economy.

Good job Mississippi! Good job Ole Miss! If any of my friends who traveled down to cover or work this debate find themselves in trouble tonight just give me a call. I know the Sheriff!

Burns Strider, a native Mississippian, is former Senior Advisor and Director of Faith Outreach for U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, former advisor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and currently a director of, and founding partner at the Eleison Group, LLC and Faithful Media, LLC.



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