I'm interested in other improvisers opinions on the debate last night.
I don't write much about politics and upfront I'll say I'm going to vote for Obama unless something shocking comes to light between now and the election. I will also say that when it came down to Clinton, Obama and McCain, I breathed a sigh of relief because everyone was better than what we have now.
Watching the debate last night, I thought it was interesting that McCain refused to look at Obama. This is what in improv we would call a "huge offer." Once you make an offer like that you're locked into it. Like choosing to play a character who is blind or with a speech defect, that choice will filter everything else you do. If a big choice fails, through lack of commitment or its very size dragging the scene down, it makes a scene unbearable to watch.
I think the intention of not looking at Obama was to lower Obama's status and heighten McCain's. However, I think there was a misread here on his part. Not looking at someone can communicate to them that you think they are of a low status, but not looking at them does not communicate that to your audience. In fact, it communicates the opposite.
McCain even told a story where looking Putin in the eye was a sign of bravery and experience on his part. Not being able to look someone in the eye is usually read by an audience as fear or of hiding something. Obama got another message entirely. In fact, the "strategy" and "tactic" comment actually seemed to get under Obama's skin. Obama felt insulted, but the audience could actually read it as a fearful person attacking a centered, calm person.
I think the McCain campaign is confusing "focus" and "status." They keep making huge choices that turn the whole light of the media on them, but not choices that communicate McCain as a high status. Their read on this may be that McCain carries such weight that any focus will give him status.
However, as any improviser will tell you, on a stage full of active people the one standing still ends up with status and focus in the long run. That's why the polls last night saying that Obama won didn't surprise me.
If the words didn't matter to you, Obama came away with status yesterday. McCain came away, once again, with everyone talking about him, but not seeming "more presidential" than Obama.