07 October 2008

Barack Obama vs. John McCain vs. Audience vs. Tom Brokaw

The second US presidential debate took place tonight at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. I followed the same methodology as with the first debate and the vice presidential debate, amended regarding Wordle by my 10-5-08 post. So let's start with the bubble graph displaying length of words, sentences as well as number of words:

Obama and McCain were again close though the latter used a bit shorter sentences. Remarkably, the audience questions contained the longest words, more even than Brokaw's. The moderator also spoke about twice as much as his colleague Jim Lehrer did in the first debate. While splitting up the text in the different speakers' parts, something caught my eye: Brokaw seemed to thank McCain a lot but not Obama. Just to make sure, I counted all speakers' instances of thanking somebody:

What stood out on this measure? McCain made it a point to thank the audience speakers and secondly thanked Brokaw quite a few times. He even thanked Obama 1.5 times—I counted a sarcastic "thank you" only half. Maybe McCain's expressions of gratitude reflected his being more formal and/or older? Or maybe he was trying to counter his rather stern if not grumpy behavior during the first debate? Obama on the other hand didn't thank many people. He thanked two audience questioners but was mostly business. He didn't thank McCain once. Maybe that was a reaction to criticism that he was bending over backwards to him too much during the first debate? Brokaw thanked McCain a lot more than Obama but neglected the audience too.

Finally, we made the "word clouds" again.

Barack Obama

John McCain


Tom Brokaw

I'll conclude with a few quick observations. Obama's no. 1 word tonight was "going," followed by "got," "Sen." and "McCain." Policywise, "health" and "energy" stood out. As for McCain, "know" was tops—invocations of experience? Then came "going," "Obama" and esp. "America(n)(s)." The audience very much stressed "economic"—remember "It's the economy, stupid!" from Clinton's first presidential campaign? As expected, Brokaw said "Sen." most, followed by "McCain" and then "Obama."


  1. Is it true that the Audience had no, zero references to Obama?

  2. Yes, I just double-checked. Often though, I think that Brokaw introduced the audience questioner to specifically McCain or Obama and so they didn't have to make clear anymore whom they were addressing. Also, quite a few questions were meant for both senators.

  3. Very cool post. Welcome to my bookmarks! :)