David Plouffe talks about debate

Obama campaign manager shares reactions about Friday night's first debate.

Published September 27, 2008 2:24PM (EDT)

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe hosted a conference call Saturday morning to discuss last night's first presidential debate. Before Plouffe began, campaign spokesman Bill Burton came on to announce a new ad the Obama campaign issued called "Zero," which notes how many times McCain mentioned "middle class." (See below.)

Among Plouffe's comments, paraphrased or summarized below:

  • Thought Obama offered "clear and compelling argument for change" at debate. Said he is thrilled with candidate's performance, which did "a world of good" among undecided voters. Called performance another "piece in the puzzle" toward winning this November.
  • Said Obama won the debate in what was a home field advantage for McCain on foreign policy. Said McCain was "on the defensive" (a talking point George Stephanopoulos and the spin team for Clinton 1992 used after the third Clinton-Bush-Perot debate, if you ever watched "The War Room.")
  • Noted that percentage of people who said Obama is "ready to be president" jumped 16 points.
  • On economy, said Obama offered clear case for change. Obama infused his answers with "why we need to change policies" and "fight for the middle class." Said McCain wasn't talking about "real people." Obama spoke "to them" while McCain "spoke by them." Noted 79 percent of uncommitted voters say Obama "understands their needs and problems," compared with 41 percent for McCain.
  • Broadening discussion, said he likes where the campaign is in the state polls, mentioning increasing strength in Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Missouri and Ohio.
  • Very confident that for those making decisions in the coming weeks, Friday night helped. Already setting high expectations for McCain in upcoming, second "town hall style" debate. Said Obama just needs to "escape unscathed" against "undisputed town hall champion" debater McCain.
  • On the issue of McCain's ad about Obama agreeing with McCain, Plouffe basically said that McCain talks a lot about white-horse bipartisanship and finds it puzzling that Obama's agreement is a bad thing. Was also asked if Sarah Palin is the underdog compared with Joe Biden in this week's upcoming veep debate, and Plouffe basically tried to raise expectations for Palin while not conceding the premise that Biden is favored.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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