-This was a lot more substantive debate than anything during the primaries. Jim Lehrer should moderate every one from now on.
-McCain was pretty tough, but he came off as angry and downright contempetuous at times (he wouldn't even look at Obama). He repeated the same (dumb) one-liners over and over again as well, but he did manage to muddle the economic discussion effectively. Lehrer should have asked McCain why he changed his mind about doing the debate because McCain did well enough to probably make people forget his campaign's schizophrenia over the last couple of days.
-The format allowed Obama to be cerebral, but not as stuffy as in previous debates. He held his own against McCain on foreign policy ("McCain's strength") and came off presidential, though he said he agreed with McCain too much and that'll be used against him. Perhaps most importantly, he definitely came off as the nicer guy you'd want to be around, which is the kind of thing that matters to undecideds. He didn't dominate McCain, but I think Obama left the impression he'd like people to have. The debate itself was a draw, but Obama won the expectations game.
-The best part was when McCain said Obama was too provocative in his statements towards Pakistan and Obama reminded him that he talking of "exterminating North Korea and sung songs about bombing Iran." Obama had another good line about McCain acting as if the Iraq war began in 2007 and he wasn't wrong on the war being easy, etc.
-Pundits say it was a tie/slight McCain win, but in the CNN and CBS polls and the FOX News focus group respondents definitely preferred Obama. Either way, it was better for Obama because he's ahead right now in the race. McCain's behind, so he's the one who needed a game changing debate and this wasn't one.
Kos: "I've been pondering those snap polls, both of which showed Obama winning tonight's debate handily. I just never would've predicted that. In fact, I've given up trying to predict how the public will react to certain things. Remember McCain's acceptance speech at the RNC convention? I thought it was dreadful, but polling suggested people loved it.
On the merits, the debate was more of a draw, so that doesn't explain the results. I wonder if there was something else at play. It was like people WANTED to like the black guy but weren't sure.
And tonight reassured them, given his calm poise and wry humor, that Barack Obama was more like Will Smith than Wesley Snipes."
UPDATE II: More evidence out that the debate helped Obama, as he moves into a 50-42 percent lead in the latest Gallup poll.