Supporters of Barack Obama were more frustrated than those of John McCain at the conduct of the first Presidential debate in Mississippi, according to the Citizens' Media Scorecard. By wide margins, they were more dissatisfied with the narrow scope of the foreign policy questions chosen by moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS. Obama's supporters appeared to seek a more wideranging discussion of the problems facing the United States. McCain's followers were more likely to focus on the key issues of war and peace and terrorism.    
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video thumbnailABCFinancial industry reforms proposed: federal bailoutCompromise not advanced by White House meetingJake TapperWhite House
video thumbnailNBCFinancial industry reforms proposed: federal bailoutLegislation opposed by House GOP membersTom CostelloCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCFinancial industry reforms proposed: federal bailoutSuccess of bailout hinges on housing marketDylan RatiganNew York
video thumbnailCBSFinancial industry reforms proposed: federal bailoutPopular resentment against Wall Street rescueBen TracyLos Angeles
video thumbnailABCPakistan fighting along North West FrontierFirefight with US helicopters in border zoneJonathan KarlPentagon
CITIZENS' MEDIA SCORECARD RESULTS Supporters of Barack Obama were more frustrated than those of John McCain at the conduct of the first Presidential debate in Mississippi, according to the Citizens' Media Scorecard. By wide margins, they were more dissatisfied with the narrow scope of the foreign policy questions chosen by moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS. Obama's supporters appeared to seek a more wideranging discussion of the problems facing the United States. McCain's followers were more likely to focus on the key issues of war and peace and terrorism.

Obama partisans in the panel tended to complain about the absence of questions on Africa (80% v 58% of McCain's) and China (74% v 64%); and on the foreign policy issues of global warming (89% v 42%); human rights abuses (85% v 57%); AIDS and other diseases (86% v 55%); and globalized trade (76% v 56%). The supporters of both candidates gave high marks to Lehrer's selection of questions about four major regions: at least 70% of each group scored him as "just right" for the time he devoted to Afghanistan & Pakistan; to Iran; to Russia & NATO; and to Iraq.

The scorecard was an online rating of the debate by a panel of more than 4,600 volunteers conducted by Free Press. Timothy Karr of Free Press has cross-posted these results at Huffington Post.

Lehrer's decision to depart from the designated foreign policy topic of the debate in order to begin with the financial crisis drew little criticism for excess. More than half of each group of supporters rated the time he spent on high finance (50% of Obama's supporters v 50% of McCain's), federal spending (52% v 56%) and taxation (58% v 56%) as "just right." Many Obama supporters complained that Lehrer's economic questions did not also cover poverty (86% v 38%), Social Security (83% v 63%) and unemployment (77% v 46%) as well.

There was little difference between the two groups of partisans in their assessment of Lehrer's performance. Fewer than 10% of the overall panel said he did a "poor job" (36% excellent, 54% adequate). His attempts to have the candidates interact without his intervention may have gone overboard: on a spectrum from "too controling" to "too freewheeling" the panel tended to come down on the side of freewheeling (27% v 4%). Lehrer received high marks for being extremely plainspoken (47%) and being unbiased (77%).

Among those few who complained that Lehrer played favorites, McCain supporters (21% v 11% of Obama's) were more likely to complain about their man's treatment. Those complaints of bias aside, McCain's supporters were more positive about the debate overall. They were more likely to find it extremely helpful in deciding how to vote (46% v 25%) and in learning about their own candidate's positions (61% v 42%).

Although Free Press extended outreach to all parts of the political spectrum, of the 4691 volunteers who participated in the scorecard, Obama supporters vastly outnumbered McCain's. To correct for that imbalance, these results have been reported by contrasting the ratings of the two groups rather than combining them, which would have drowned out the Republican perspective. Consisting of volunteers rather than a random sample, these results cannot be projected to the population at large.

The two groups of supporters tended to watch the debate on different outlets. MSNBC (27%) and PBS (26%) were the favorite outlet for Obama partisans. Fox News Channel was the favorite for fully 43% of the McCain voters in the panel. We need to recruit a more diverse panel for subsequent debates. Perhaps Fox News will give us a hand with some outreach.

UPDATE: my apologies to all those who stayed up past midnight to catch my promised deadline, which is only now, tardily being met. The survey analysis software did not work as I expected so we had to call it a night at 1:30am. I think those were just teething troubles. Onwards to the next debate!

UPDATE II: there were only 281 McCain supporters in the panel; 3837 Obama supporters; the remainder Other/Undecided/None. More Republicans needed.

RATE THE DEBATES USING CITIZENS’ MEDIA SCORECARD Tyndall Report's media monitoring turns interactive on Friday night for the first debate of Campaign '08 from Mississippi. Instead of me telling you how network TV journalists covered the debate, I have devised an online questionnaire so together, we the viewers, can monitor the quality of the Jim Lehrer's journalism in his capacity as debate monitor. It is called the Citizens' Media Scorecard. It is being hosted by Anybody can log in at Rate the Debates. The site will be open immediately the debate finishes. Give us your feedback as soon as possible before the spinmeisters start putting their two cents in. We plan to have the numbers crunched and the analysis posted by midnight.

AGREEMENT TURNS TO ACRIMONY Negotiations over the Treasury Department's $700bn bailout of the financial industry was Story of the Day yet again on Thursday. At lunchtime on Capitol Hill, legislators announced "fundamental agreement on a set of principles." Then Congressional leaders joined Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain for a photo-op at the White House with President George Bush and announced…no agreement. It was an interview-heavy news hour as both candidates taped remote q-&-a's with all three anchors to rehearse their talking points--this even though, technically speaking, this was the second day of McCain's suspended candidacy. ABC led from the White House; CBS and NBC from Capitol Hill. NBC anchor Brian Williams was in Washington too.

From the White House ABC's Jake Tapper reported that "any hopes for a bipartisan agreement" were "in shatters" even as NBC's Tom Costello on the Hill found "optimism that a deal is close." CBS' Bob Orr (no link) observed that the "real heavy lifting is being done at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue" from the White House. "The final bill is being largely crafted by Democrats with only modest Republican input."

That "modest" input was in fact non-existent for many in the House Republican caucus. They "do not like this at all," NBC's Costello understated. "Many conservatives remain ideologically opposed to a government bailout." CBS' Orr heard as they "grumbled that they have not agreed to anything yet." ABC's George Stephanopoulos called it "chaos, pandemonium, theater" when those GOPers stopped suggesting amendments to the original framework proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson but "an alternate plan…a completely different approach." So now, announced ABC's Tapper, "the blame game begins." Democrats blaming Republicans for "not doing enough to help pass the President's bill;" Republicans blaming Democrats for "forcing their principles upon them."

Where was suspended candidate McCain in all this? The senator who had stopped running for President in order to put Country First, as his slogan says, and to try to broker a compromise? NBC's Costello repeated the line from Capitol Hill that negotiators "had already resolved key issues without McCain or Obama." Their involvement was a "high-powered photo-op," opined CBS' Orr. Sen Christopher Dodd, a leading Democratic negotiator told Orr that "the White House summit was more of a political stunt for McCain." ABC's Stephanopoulos talked to other Democrats who harbored darker suspicions: "He is coming in, working with the House Republicans, to blow this up--so he can put it back together and get some credit."

HOUSING INVENTORY STOCKPILE All three networks filed features on the fallout from this financial crisis. On CBS, Ben Tracy surveyed the "wealth of bailout backlash" in the population at large, as his own network's opinion poll showed only 16% support for the bill. NBC had CNBC's Dylan Ratigan explain the economic arguments for and against the bailout. Some critics worry that the plan "does not address the root of the problem--housing." ABC assigned Barbara Pinto (embargoed link) to take A Closer Look at the housing market, as sales of new homes fell to a 17-year low and the inventory of unsold homes stretched to an eleven month backlog--this despite the fact that both mortgage rates and prices are lower than they were this time last year. Tougher credit standards, Pinto explained, mean that 20% of American families who can afford a given mortgage are turned down for it anyway.

OBAMA GENTLY TEASES A GRANDSTANDING MCCAIN After the White House meeting both John McCain and Barack Obama retired to Washington DC hotels to practice a round-robin of interviews. McCain (ABC here, CBS here, NBC here) sat in front of a coral-red background; Obama (ABC here, CBS here, NBC here) chose blue and a flag. None of the anchors gave the slightest credence to McCain's transparently false claim that, temporarily, he was not a candidate. All three asked if he was going to attend the Presidential debate on foreign policy Friday. McCain for his part, remembered to use his campaign slogan Country First in answers to both NBC's Brian Williams and CBS' Katie Couric.

As for Obama, he gently teased his grandstanding opponent for thrusting himself into the middle of the story so flamboyantly. To NBC's Williams he observed that "sometimes if you inject Presidential politics into delicate negotiations it is not necessarily constructive." To ABC's Charles Gibson he confessed "one of the concerns I have, as a Presidential candidate, about being too deeply in these negotiations, I think there is sometimes a tendency to have that distort people's decision-making." To CBS' Couric he stated that "my preference is to use the phone and to talk to people and to work with them--including Secretary Paulson, Chairman Bernanke and others--in a way that is not a photo-op."

WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY THAT? The day's next big political interview was part two of Katie Couric's Exclusive with Sarah Palin, the Republican Vice Presidential candidate. At one point Palin got so flummoxed that she completely lost her train of thought. "Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side the land boundary that we have with Canada. It is funny that a comment like that was kind of made to… I do not know… You know… Reporters!"

What was the ferocious gotcha!-moment grilling from anchor Couric that left John McCain's running mate gasping for words? "You have cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?"

NBC anchor Brian Williams played the Couric-Palin clip to political director Chuck Todd for reaction. "They have kept her too sheltered," Todd speculated. "They have not done local interviews. They have not done print interviews. They could have her already comfortable in these settings where she would not be stumbling around for an answer."

DISPATCHES FROM THE NORTH WEST FRONTIER There was a lone piece of foreign news on this heavy political day. ABC's Jonathan Karl reported from the Pentagon on fighting between Pakistani troops and US military helicopters along the border with Afghanistan. The Pentagon insisted that its aircraft had made no incursion inside Pakistan. President Asif ali-Zardari insisted that his troops had fired only warning flares to demarcate the border. Karl reported that there had indeed been a firefight and that it lasted five minutes.