Obama's New Offense

I've been flying on Obama's plane since the debate, and one thing that jumps out is how he is attacking McCain more forcefully on the stump than he did on Friday. As I write in a new article today for The Washington Independent:

Obama may have been cool and cordial during the debate, but he punched hard at those weekend rallies. He alternatively blasted and mocked his opponent's campaign. Looking over crowd of 20,000 in Greensboro, N.C., on early Saturday morning, Obama made a show of laughing at McCain's newfound interest in running as a change agent. "He's been grabbing our signs, using our slogans. Come on, John!" Obama said, "come up with your own stuff!"

Obama also mixes indignation with withering ridicule:

Reprising McCain's now infamous line about fighting earmarks for bear research in Montana, Obama channeled Jon Stewart to dismiss this as a distraction. "He's really hung up on those bears," he said to laughter and applause.

On the trail, Obama's aides are also talking up his debate performance. The snap surveys and traditional polling largely favored Obama, of course, and campaign manager David Plouffe heralded those figures in a presentation for the traveling press this weekend. He pointed to a CBS survey indicating that after the debate, the number of uncommitted voters who said Obama understands their "needs and problems" jumped 21 points, to 79 percent. In a separate question about McCain's standing, the Republican nominee improved 5 points on that score, from 36 to 41 percent.

Plouffe argued that Obama's increase was striking because he already had a "healthy edge" on understanding people's problems. The campaign also flagged a new USA Today/Gallup poll showing that 12 percent more debate viewers thought Obama won on Friday -- 46 percent said Obama did better, while only 34 percent who said Mccain did better.

Yet Obama's aides did not address a significant setback in the same debate polling. While Obama used the debate to prioritize his signature issue of opposing the Iraq war, a view now shared by most of the public, more voters actually thought McCain would make the "right choices" in Iraq.

In fact, McCain's support on that measure jumped 12 points among uncommitted voters after the debate -- to 56 percent. Only 48 percent of voters said the same about Obama, who gained four points on Iraq from the debate, according to the CBS poll of uncommitted voters. Sensing an opening, GOP operatives spent the weekend blasting Obama for advancing a "misguided and weak" foreign policy that offers "defeat" in Iraq.

Without directly responding, Obama's campaign appears to have staked its confidence on the surveys showing a lead among debate viewers -- which suggests that the Iraq issue did not hinder Obama's overall standing.