Tales from the Trail

Obama shows Biden some love after debate mention

President Barack Obama broke from his standard campaign speech on Tuesday to show his running mate Joe Biden some love, heaping praise onto the vice president less than 24 hours after he put Biden under a harsh spotlight during the final presidential debate.

When explaining his decision to kill Osama bin Laden, Obama said in the debate to his Republican opponent Mitt Romney that “even some in my own party, including my current vice president, had the same critique as you did.”

“But what the American people understand is, is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward, and I make those decisions,” he continued.

During his first run for president in 2007, Romney had said it was not “worth moving heaven and Earth and spending billions of dollars,” to kill bin Laden, the backer of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

At a rare joint campaign appearance with Biden in the battleground state of Ohio on Tuesday, Obama seemed intent to smooth any ripples of discontent, telling the crowd nobody “knows better about foreign policy than my vice president.”

Foreign policy issues rank low among voter priorities

Hype for the third and final presidential debate tonight has been considerably less than for the two previous face-offs — perhaps for good reason. The debate is focused on foreign policy, and Americans don’t seem to care that much about it.

“War/foreign conflicts” and “terrorism/terrorist attacks” tied for a spot near the bottom of a list of issues from which respondents were asked to identify the most important, in Reuters/Ipsos polls conducted since January. Only 2 percent of likely voters saw each of those two as issues of top importance.

In October, 43 percent of likely voters said the economy was the most important issue and 25 percent pointed to “unemployment/lack of jobs,” followed by healthcare (7 percent), morality (5 percent), “other” (5 percent), education (4 percent) and immigration (3 percent).

Best of the debate: Ron Paul v. Michele Bachmann

Presidential debates allow voters to hear how candidates differ, and there are few policy differences as great as that between Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann on Iran. Take this exchange from last night:

Bachmann:

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map and they’ve stated they will use it against the United States of America.”

For what it’s worth, Politifact has looked into Bachmann’s claim and rated it “false.”

Just what is a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate?

Republican frontrunner Newt Gingrich and long-shot Jon Huntsman say they’ll hold a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate in New Hampshire on Monday. So how will it be different from the usual debates?

During the 1858 race for U.S. Senate in Illinois, incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas and upstart Republican lawyer Abraham Lincoln held a series of seven three-hour debates in towns throughout the state on the day’s hottest topic: slavery.

The debates had no moderator, and the candidates spoke in paragraphs rather than today’s rehearsed 45-second sound bites. In each of the debates, the first candidate was given 60 minutes to make opening remarks. His opponent was given 90 minutes to respond, and the first candidate was allowed a final 30-minute rebuttal.

In debates, McCain loses blinking contest to Obama

mccain-semi-blink.jpgWASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate John McCain may not have blinked first in his debates with Barack Obama — but he certainly blinked more often, which is not a good thing.

Candidates who blink more than their opponents in debates tend to lose presidential elections, says Boston College psychology professor J.J. Tecce, and McCain outblinked Obama during the their three debates this fall.

“People are picking up McCain’s rapid blinking and saying, ‘There’s something about him that’s awfully twitchy and nervous and I don’t think I want to vote for that guy,’” said Tecce, who has presented a paper on blinking in debates.

Last presidential debate ends, will the spread narrow?

The third and final presidential debate is over after intense sparring between Republican hopeful John McCain and rtx9lnj.jpgDemocratic contender Barack Obama.

Have voters heard enough from the two candidates? McCain has been falling behind in recent polls, was he able to close the gap or was Obama able to solidify his lead?

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Round 2 is over — which way are undecided voters swinging?

rtx9bhu.jpgRound two of the presidential debates between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama is over.

How did they do?

The town hall format was seen as an advantage for McCain. Did he live up to expectations?

Obama has been gaining an edge in many battleground states. Did he do anything to undermine or enhance his small lead?

Second presidential debate town hall style

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.

To debate, or not to debate, that is the question

WASHINGTON – Republican presidential hopeful John McCain has proposed postponing the first debate with his rival, Democrat Barack Obama, citing a need for the two senators to return to Congress to help hammer out a compromise on a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street.

For his part, Obama said the debate, which is to focus on foreign policy, should go ahead because now is a time when Americans need to hear from the candidates.

Should the two White House hopefuls go on with the show? Should they switch the topic of the debate to the economy? Or should they cancel as McCain suggested while dealing with the crisis?

Clinton to Obama: How about a debate on a flatbed truck?

rtr1zt7f.jpgWILMINGTON, N.C. – Hillary Clinton, invoking the drama of a lusty street fight, repeated her challenge to Barack Obama for a debate free of moderators or a set agenda.

“We could even do it on the back of a flatbed truck. It doesn’t even need to be in some fancy studio somewhere,” she told a campaign rally on the banks of the Cape Fear River.

Her rival for the Democratic Party presidential nomination has deflected the request and said he would debate her after primary votes in Indiana and North Carolina on May 6.