Second presidential debate town hall style

October 8, 2008

The second presidential tete-a-tete in Nashville on Tuesday was dubbed a “town hall” debate which freed Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain from the stodgy podiums and allowed them to roam around the stage to talk to the audience and cameras.rtx9bg3.jpg

Often when members of the audience — 100 undecided Nashville voters identified by the Gallup polling company — asked a question, each candidate walked as close as he could and often thanked them by name for asking. Obama and McCain then paced back and forth across the stage to address the entire audience as they answered.

McCain, who loves the town hall format, got in one jibe against Obama for finally attending one after he failed to get him to agree to hold such discussions every week until the Nov. 4 election. “Senator Obama, it’s good to be with you at a town hall meeting,” McCain said.

When one candidate answered a question, the other typically sat on a tall chair listening and taking notes on a side table. On occasion, one would stand up while the other talked in anticipation of giving a response to refute one point or another.

The one obvious violation of the ground rules was going over the allotted time. The rtx9bg8.jpgmoderator, Tom Brokaw of NBC News, repeatedly pleaded with McCain and Obama to stay within the confines of the short responses.

“Gentlemen, you may not have noticed but we have lights around here.  They have red and green and yellow and they are to signal…” he said, referring to the time allotments.

Brokaw vented further frustration with the candidates’ refusal to heed the time limits when Obama and then McCain insisted they needed to follow up on each others’ statements over Pakistan.
“I’m just the hired help here,” Brokaw said.
Obama replied, “You’re doing a great job, Tom” and then launched into a criticism of McCain’s comments on Pakistan.  

– Additional reporting by Caren Bohan

– Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage


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I think Obama won because of one single question.

Is healthcare a right, or a responsibility?

McCain said a responsibility. Obama said a right.
And who cares about life?

We should be taking care of our citizens first and foremost and that means making healthcare available to all of our legal citizens.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

McCain looked like an idiot. For example, McCain said eBay was “a job engine.” Didn’t eBay just announce yesterday 10,000 job layoffs? And what about tax cuts for the rich? Not too many voters favor that or the recently passed bailout (unless they are getting the benefits). Finally, if we use 25% of the world’s oil, yet have only 3% of the production, would drilling for more oil and nuclear power alone get us out of foreign oil dependency? How do we pay for the nuclear power anyway with the tax cuts? McCain didn’t make sense.

Posted by josephbbl | Report as abusive

Obama won the debate because he gave more specific answers and demonstrated a greater interest in the middle class. McCain responses seemed scripted and a variant of the stump speeches we have been hearing for months.

Posted by Amin | Report as abusive

Obama won the debate. McCain looked tired and worn out. He looked defeated. Both prtesented their ideas reasonably well, but Obama offered more complete explanations.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

John Mccain and his tired mud slinging rhetoric about reaching across the aisle served only to reinforce his
lack of plan for the crises that every American is living (except perhaps the CEOS and his pals that will be having “no change” in their taxes…which basically equates to no sacrifice…..
He is deluded to identify the audience as “My friends”.
Answer a question, John….or are you too busy dreaming up corny one liners about hair transplants?

Social Worker and Soccer mom for Obama (no lipstick, no guns..just a brain!) in 08!!!!!!

Posted by Lily | Report as abusive

Although this appears as a tie I believe McCain did very well , Mccain shows he is a natural leader with a calmness we need in this country. Obama shines in the theater where he can perform, the stage is his audience but in the oval office we do not need a performer, we need a reformer. This is a tough time to change leaders with heated aggression in the middle east, everywhere in all directions countries are looking at the USA , McCain is correct, can we afford at the worst time in our history, on the job training for a president elect that has more time in school than in office? Has America became that desperate? I remember in school, we were all suppose to put on blindfolds and walk home from school with a friend to lead us, I was ready to cross the street my friend became very silent, I did not know if I should go across or stop and wait. Out of panic I took of my blindfold, to my surprise I was in the middle of the street with traffic on both sides, I should of not played a blind person as I had no idea how to walk as a blind person walks, Our president should neither be blind he must see where he is going by where he has already been.

Are you sure you want that much change? Be careful what you ask for you may not like what you get.

Posted by Ann | Report as abusive

I felt McCain answered very clear concerns about US national security and hit home with many of my problems in today’s US-Russia relations. He had a strong grasp of events following the breakup of the Soviet Union, and he used good points on Lebanon and Somalia to prove he was not the warmonger that Obama has made him out to be.

I did see a lot of pugnacity between both, and McCain’s tone was condescending at several points. I saw some of it coming, but much of the wasn’t helpful.

As far as healthcare was concerned, Barack won that debate, largely because McCain’s rebuttal took the point of view of an employer or small business. I still have qualms concerning a universal health coverage plan, as I do not support socialized medicine.

Overall, I say Obama won on presentation, but narrowly lost on the issues.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

I can NOT believe there was not a word about an economic stimulis package …or anything said about how to help people who have already lost their jobs or homes or on the brink NOW !!! I am SOOO LIVID…I am worried about domestic issues NOW !!! I couldn’t care less if the people in Pakistan feelings would be hurt because we shot Bin Ladin. WHAT we care about is a place to live, feeding our familes, those of us with jobs worry about affording gas to get to work !! WE just handed THEIR buddies 700 BIL and find out they are going to $400k spa vacations !!! When are everyday Americans going to get some help?????

Posted by Karen | Report as abusive

Cant tell was it Trotsky or Lenin? They both had great central planning ideas, unfortunately some us us liked capitalism. These two candidates disgust me! Thanks RNC. There is a reason Bush beet McCain — he is a far better conservative and that isn’t saying much.

Posted by kevin | Report as abusive

I’m tired of the News Media telling the american public what to think, how to vote, ect.
The truth is we need to think for ourselves. Look at the Real facts. The media isn’t telling us the truth. My Generation “gen x” needs to wake up now! Some how the “gen x” is following what is trendy not what is real. Wake up! Vote for what is real. Think for yourself. Investigate the truth. If we don’t this country will become a socialist nation. Our freedom will be lost.

Posted by D. Ann | Report as abusive

They both did pretty well, but I feel better about Obama. They did not mention where the middle class are really being hurt now–I’m talking about the $24,000 I’ve lost in my 401K since January. Ouch! And I’m not even an aggressive investor.

Posted by Linda | Report as abusive

The debate was a snoozer. Same questions as the first debate and basicaly the same answers.

Posted by Steven | Report as abusive

Obama clearly won this. No question. The WP said that McCain had a “forward thinking” notion about the economy with his idea of buying up bad mortgages and renegotiating them.

The problem is that that you CAN’T DO THAT when you have a “spending freeze” on everything but the war. There simply isn’t enough money to pay for it. McCain is shooting from the hip. We don’t need another maverick, cowboy president.

As McCain himself said, we need a “cool hand at the tiller.” A man with a plan. That’s Obama and that’s why I voted for him during early voting here.

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

Gen-X is screwed. The boomers have seen to that. Even with leadership, we simply don’t have the numbers to combat what’s ahead of us or behind us.

Posted by Flood | Report as abusive

Soooo…if you try to nail jello to the wall, 4 or 5 more will show up. What the hell does that mean? More of the same stiff, incoherent, substance-less babble from a desperate man fully aware he is getting blown away by a far superior candidate with actual policies and plans to help the middle class. Obama won on issues, substance, and presentation.

Brokaw was terrible in a terrible format. Silly time limits force them to truncate answers into talking points at times.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

obama clear winner. mccain looks and acts old.

Posted by jack bender | Report as abusive

The media will decide which who will win this race. Just watch Fox News. It is so unreal… wake up and think for yourself.

Posted by Jasim | Report as abusive

What flabbergasts me is the way the majority seem to be placing the blame for this economic crisis on the side that so desperately tried, since 2005, to stop this whole thing while it still could have been stopped. Historically, Repubs. (especially John McCain in this instance) tried desperately to enact strong legislative regulation against Fannie and Freddie along with others in that same arena. I saw the films of the Dems in congress strongly apposing this, including Franklin Raines (one of Obama’s cohorts) and I saw how desperately many of the repubs…in fact, initiated by Bush (yes, believe it or not – film doesn’t lie!) trying to get the regs in place before this whole thing blew up!! It was the Dems, lead by Barney Frank (I saw him say it) that Fannie and Freddie were “no problem”, and didn’t need to be fixed. Of course not, you don’t cut up your own meal ticket!!! So, why oh why are the repubs getting blamed for this? It’s just insane. For a country who says it wants “change”, why are so many voting for the candidate who has the most to gain by keeping the status quo, he and his affiliates? It just doesn’t make any sense. All of this has been well VIDEO DOCUMENTED, first by Fox, and yesterday, surprisingly by CNN. WAKE UP PEOPLE. You’re being dupped. As far as McCain and Palin go, be honest and forthright, check her record in Alaska (public record, not the media spin record (mid-sentence cut and paste masters that they are). She revolutionized Alaska and nearly everyone there now has a great lifestyle. My niece’s husband was on TDI there twice in the past two years and he thinks it’s a great place to live, even though the cost of living is astronomically higher due to sheer distance and shipping costs, heating costs, etc., Gov. Palin has an almost 90% approval rating. Doesn’t that speak volumes about her? Yes! Some people are just so highly educated, they have all the common sense drilled right out of them.

Posted by tlw | Report as abusive

THANK YOU D. ANN THATS EXACTLY HOW I FEEL, im not old enough to vote, yet i feel more educated about candidates than most people who can vote. STOP BLINDLY FOLLOWING THE MEDIA, THINK FOR YOURSELF PLEASE

Posted by mary | Report as abusive

and btw BOTH candidates voted for the bailout. lost all my respect.

Posted by mary | Report as abusive

Change from a Democratic machine politician who has never carried out the responsibilities of an office he has been elected to because he was running for the next office? A press core that thinks an Obama win would be an “historic story” and therefore has a vested interest in him winning? A Democratic-controlled Congress that protected Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and is even less popular than Pres Bush? People in other countries favoring Obama because he is more likely to serve their interests than US interests? These should be focal points of the debates and press reports. Obama for “movie of the week.” McCain for president.

Posted by Elaine Melville | Report as abusive

John McCain showed his massive prejudice of humans other than white, when he made comment of “that person”. We do not need another hateful person running this country. As a rather progressive white voter, I am now totally fed up with the Republican party and their racist attitudes, and fear tactics. We need a person of intelligence and compassion toward our fellow man no matter where they live and breathe. I am not proud to be an American when a major party decides to nominate another candidate full of hate toward their fellow man and fellow Americans of color. It is now obvious that McCain is not my choice to lead this country. I am appalled.

Posted by Mike Archien | Report as abusive

The debate was “NOT” a town hall meeting debate. It was 100% controlled by a left wing zelot, Brokaw (sp). The participant’s questions were filtered and there were so many subjects not allowed by the moderator. For example: not one question about Obama’s questionable relationships with Ayers or Wright or his association with ACORN.

As for McCain, he would have faired a little better if he stopped using the words “MY FRIENDS”. I am so sick of that condescending usage of those words. Mr. McCain, you are not MY FRIEND. I choose my friends.

All in all McCain did nothing to improve his standings in the polls.

We, the American people, have to choose between two very undesireable choices. If these two are the best this country has to offer we are in trouble.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

McCains’ healthcare plan should scare the beejezus out of everyone. $5k isn’t going to buy a years worth of decent health coverage. I already pay that pretaxed at work. That’s already a tax credit in a sense. Who’s going to cover what my employer ponies up? McCains’ math, like his jello, just ain’t stickin.

Buying mortgages at about $300B? Why should I pay for the guy next door who was dumb enough to buy a $500K house on a $30k income? No thanks Mr. McCain.

You need to go retire to one of the 7 houses you own.

Posted by Carol | Report as abusive

As to the person suggesting Obama should answer about his associations with Ayers and Wright, PLEASE!

First off Ayers was deemed a radical in the 60’s…..
Seriously that was 40+ years ago. He has since become an esteemed professor at a University in Illinois.
Obama was 7 at the time of Ayers’ “radicalism”. And the only reason they have been involved together has been because of education reform in our state.

As far as Wright is concerned, we can discuss it sure, but then I want to discuss Palin getting a blessing against Witches from Thomas Muthee.

Let’s discuss how Palin believes the End Times are coming and how that affects her judgement and values.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

Methuselah meets John Doe and John Does wins on grace and charm alone – let alone because he is the best man for president.

The age thing is not the point here, supposedly, although we might see McCain to possibly die from old age and dump on the US the most inept, incompetent, daft, facile, aggressive, capricious and dangerous president since GWBush. She likes to shoot animals during the winter, by the way!

Oh dear America – are you going to insist history not only repeats itself, but that the USA will pass into ignomy, failure and rapid decline? Do want to court disaster and invite political contagion into your lives?

Maybe America has a death wish – who knows?

Posted by TheTruthIs… | Report as abusive