Saddleback Postmortem

SADDLEBACK POSTMORTEM….I only saw the tail end of Barack Obama’s half of the great Saddleback Church semi-debate tonight, but I caught most of the highlights afterward and I saw all of John McCain’s performance. The CNN talking heads all thought the big difference between the two was that McCain came across as direct and forceful while Obama came across as thoughtful and nuanced, but that’s not quite how it struck me.

For better or worse, Obama seems to have chosen to treat this event as sort of an intimate evening with Rick Warren — that just happened to be nationally televised. McCain, by contrast, treated it as a straight campaign event: he had his stump speech talking points ready, and he was eager to cram as many of them into his 50 minutes as possible.

I don’t know if this was a good decision on Obama’s part, but I don’t have any doubt that he’ll choose a much more direct speaking style at his three face-to-face debates with McCain. This is why I think comments about how Obama will need to “lift his game” this fall are off base. This wasn’t a preview of his debate style, it was just a look at his style in a different setting.