Washington, Sept 30 : The US presidential debate on foreign policy issues last Friday eliminated Republican nominee John McCain's best chance of delivering a knockout punch to his rival Barack Obama, whose most important asset may be his capacity for self-correction.
McCain is supposed to have a command on foreign policy issues and he should have owned Friday's debate. During their respective primary battles, McCain was a better debater than Obama, who could be hesitant, wordy and thrown off his stride, the Washington Post reports.
But the Obama who showed up for the debate in the University of Missouri was sharper and more concise than the man who has frequently lost debates against his Democratic foes in the past.
He was also resolutely calm against McCain, whose condescension became the major talking point after the debate.
This gave special powers to Obama's peroration about McCain's wrong judgments on going to war in Iraq. McCain's dismissal of Obama brought back memories of how advocates of the war arrogantly dismissed those who insisted (rightly, as it turned out) that the conflict would be far more difficult and costly than its architects had suggested.
McCain's derisive approach may help explain why instant polls gave Obama an edge in a debate that many pundits rated a tie and why women seemed especially inclined towards Obama.
A CNN's survey found that 59 percent of women rated Obama as having done better, with just 31 percent saying the same of McCain.
An Obama adviser who was watching a "dial group" in which viewers turn a device to express their feelings about a debate's every moment said that whenever McCain lectured or attacked Obama, the Republican's ratings would drop, and the fall was especially steep among women.
But if the debate was indeed a tie -- and McCain certainly looked informed and engaged once the discussion moved from economics to foreign affairs -- this would count as a net gain for Obama.
A foreign policy discussion afforded McCain his best opportunity to aggravate doubts about Obama. That opportunity has now gone.