The Debate

I’ve never seen such excitement around any presidential debate – it was really amazing. Most of the bars in my neighborhood had the debate showing on every TV – a number of them had organized official, or semi-official, debate-watching parties, and were generally standing room only. A local cafe set up TVs just for the event, and brought in entertainment (folk-singers) as well.

Writing in the, Anna Pickard talks about a debate watching party she attended here in San Francisco. Her remarks are interesting, but perhaps ever more interesting are the comments in response to her article. One thing is clear – America isn’t coming across well.

The general consensus in the press outside the US (when you can find articles that are not just pulled from wire reports) seems to be the same as inside – that neither candidate scored a knock-out, but that Obama won on points and emerged a much stronger contender simply by virtue of at least holding his own, and looking “presidential.”

Barack Obama emerged a stronger candidate from the presidential debate yesterday after demonstrating that he could match John McCain on national security, the Democratic candidate’s supposed area of greatest weakness. (

The need to protect Israel from the vitriolic threats of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad formed the crux of a central argument between US presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain in their first debate Friday night. (The Jerusalem Post)

“Round one: Obama takes narrow lead” (The Sydney Morning Herald)

One report on BBC news was among the few that saw McCain coming out ahead in any way:

On foreign policy it all seemed a little clearer, although I should say Mr McCain won on points, without delivering anything remotely approaching a knockout blow.

In restaurants, bars and cafes where the debate was watched around here, and out on the streets of the Mission, Haight and Castro neighborhoods later, the mood was upbeat, with a clear sense that Obama had moved an important step closer to the Oval Office. There were more people out on the street than usual, with a festive hint in the air and Obama t-shirts everywhere : “Barack to the Future 2008”; “Obamaniac”; and the like – a whole range of puns and humorous reworkings of Obama’s name and campaign slogans, but always positive, all expressing a profound sense of hope.


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