I think John McCain's biggest problem at this point is that he doesn't like Barack Obama enough.
Last week you and I talked about polls showing that middle-class and independent voters were identifying with Barack Obama. That they liked
him. Analysis of those numbers over at 538 suggested
that this was going to make McCain/Palin's last-ditch attack strategy difficult. If you attack somebody I like that makes me defensive, which means I probably won't like you.
During Tuesday night's debate we saw concrete evidence that the theory might be true. Like you, I watched on CNN, and the immediate reaction from pundits was that the debate was basically a draw, but that McCain needed a dramatic move and a draw was in Obama's favor. Then the instant polling numbers from debate watchers started coming in and CNN's political team was amazed. Viewers thought Obama creamed McCain
. Obama won the debate by 24 points. Viewers thought Obama was a better leader (an area in which McCain has always held an advantage) by 11 points
And by a margin of 2-1, debate watchers thought Obama was more likable
You and I have been following Obama for years, since he was a state senator running in the Illinois primary for US Senate. A year ago, I spent hours on the phone with Democratic friends in other states who were nervous about Obama's electability. Be patient, I kept telling them. The more people get to know this guy, the more they like him. Maybe it has something to do with his sincerity. His eloquence. The genuine relationship he has with his family. Maybe it's just charisma. But it's true even for people who wouldn't be inclined to vote for him. Even conservatives who worked with him in the Illinois senate like Barack Obama
Tuesday night, as McCain demonstrated a palpable dislike for "That One," viewers took note and they turned on McCain. Obama and McCain traded attacks on each other, but viewers thought McCain spent more time attacking Obama by a margin of 63-17 percent.
Because when McCain attacked, voters felt the sting.