So the first Presidential Debate was held last night in Miami, which means that we must now spend the next 48 hours arguing about Who Won and Who Flubbed and Who Looked More Presidential. Since you can get that anywhere, The Haggis is going to avoid it. What we will discuss instead is this:
Who Really Believes That The Debates Affect the Election Outcome? Are there really people who are truly Undecided? Or are they just too busy to focus right now, but in general have some sense of where their vote will land?
I ask because CNN's Bill Hemmer (who every day looks more like John Boy Walton in those post-war/starting to be a writer in the big city episodes), was in Ohio with "undecided voters" who were giving their immediate responses in real time to each candidate's remarks. I felt bad for Bill Hemmer for two reasons: a) he was far, far away from the real action while the inexplicably still-employed unbearable Candy Crowley was at Debate Central, and b) he was covering undecided voters who, by their comments, were nothing of the kind.
As he asked the panel of everyday folk to offer their thoughts on why they pressed the 1 or the 5 or the 10 on their Insta-Reaction-Love-Connection-Style hand keypad, it became clear from their comments that these Undecideds already knew who they supported. One woman said, "I just really trust President Bush on Iraq, and so I liked his answer better." Interesting that it was not the other way around: "his answers on Iraq gave me confidence and so I trust him."
Now, let's use a comparison. You know how every now and again an artist will put out an album that just stinks up the joint? It is the worst creative effort they have ever put forth and deserves to end up in the 99 cent bin next to Leo Sayer and Billy Ocean albums? Reviewers always say: "this CD is for true fans only," meaning that true fans are the only ones who will think that Jewel's "poetry" is inspired or that Jennifer Love Hewitt really is going to hit it big some day as a singer (you know who you are, JLH fan-in-question!). So you buy the CD because *you are already bought into the cult of personality that is that artist.* You are a supporter of that artist even when all good taste, sense and reason is telling you that Rod Stewart ought not to tackle Cole Porter.
Cut back to this woman and President Bush. Her answer belies her essential support for the President. She is as "undecided" as I am "taciturn." The woman is a GWB supporter, buys all his albums no matter what pablum is on them, watches every Larry King Live he is on, stands out in the rain to get concert tickets, and has the screen saver to boot. But if you ask her: "Hey--are you a fan of Georgie B?" You will get a more measured response than her actions and thought processes indicate to be true because something about saying an unqualified Yes makes her uncomfortable. Or maybe she just wanted to get on television...
Short Story Long: Okay, I can't resist the horse race: Kerry was more succinct than usual but still needs to practice Soundbite Television. It's a morale booster that he did as well as he did. Bush has the Aw Shucks vote all sewn up. He kept going back to "look, it's a hard job/terrorists hate freedom/Iraqis love freedom" which provided all the elements of a rockin' drinking game (ie, drink every time he says one of the above); but as simplistic as I thought that was, Wendy Winecooler from Ohio probably thought it was an honest and understandable answer because it did not descend into the more arcane "multilateral/international/omnibus bill/proliferation" territory.
As interesting as last night was, I am more jazzed to see Edwards take on Cheney next Tuesday. That is gonna be a fist fight to the finish, kids.