9:17 PM-- I would say that both candidates are off to a shaky start. Obama is struggling to make his own points while fighting off McCain's attacks, and McCain is struggling just to say something intelligent and relevant. I suspect they will find their stride shortly.
9:19 PM-- If Obama is going to talk about spending cuts, as he just did, he had better get Iraq into the discussion pronto. That is the major spending albatross on American taxpayers that can be laid right in McCain's lap.
9:22 PM-- Big mistake by McCain, dissing an overhead projector for a planetarium in Chicago. That's for the kids, knucklehead!
9:23 PM-- Did I just hear McCain say that retiree benefits are going to have to be cut? Actually, he is starting to get incoherent.
9:26 PM-- Obama just tried to point out that McCain's tax cut policy is going to increase deficits even more, but he mangled it. Perhaps he will get back to that later.
9:30 PM-- Obama is struggling to express himself... he needs to recover his bearings if he wants to gain ground in this debate and not just hold even.
9:34 PM-- Okay, Obama's hatchet vs scalpel analogy is good. Keep it up.
9:35 PM-- Good, McCain has set up Obama nicely on the tax issue. And unbelievably, he has done the same thing on the $5000 health care tax deduction. Brokaw has cut him off but he'll get back to it.
9:38 PM-- There we go. Small businesses, most get tax cuts. McCain has been misrepresenting Obama's position for months. Good riposte, Obama paints McCain as the suckup to the rich he really is.
9:43 PM-- McCain is stumbling over nuclear power, and again lying about Obama's position.
9:46 PM-- Drill baby drill? Better chill baby chill.
9:48 PM-- McCain is being very aggressive, and Obama is only just keeping up with it. One more reason to look forward to the day when this is over with.
9:51 PM-- Obama does very well on health care. Over to McCain.
9:52 PM-- McCain full of shit on his health care plan. This is a big mistake, most Americans are no longer scared of "socialized medicine." Again, incoherence.
9:54 PM-- Brokaw asks his first good question, is health care a right?
9:55 PM-- Obama answers the question straight on: Health care is a right. That might be the one point that gets remembered out of this debate. And zing! McCain voted against the expansion of healthcare for children, in lockstep with Bush.
10:00 PM-- Good to get Iraq into this at last, McCain is dead meat on this issue. And the link with spending. Obama is hitting his stride.
10:07 PM-- McCain incoherent again on the "McCain Doctrine" for use of military force.
10:14 PM-- McCain has a secret plan to get Bin Laden. Can't wait.
10:16 PM-- Does General Petraeus walk on water? Maybe he should be Commander-in-Chief given how often McCain mentions him, just like Bush did--although we don't hear much from Bush these days...
10:26 PM-- Pretty boring the past 10 minutes, with both candidates saying what they think they have to say, political correctness raises its head...
10:28 PM-- Okay, Obama doing well on the "talking to our enemies" issue.
10:30 PM-- Obama takes the money shot. He mixes the country up with the world, but we know what he means. And at least he has a good reason for running for president, which McCain can't say.
10:32 PM-- Whoops, did McCain just insult Americans' sense of geography? (of course, he's right, how many Americans could find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map.)
Conclusion: Obama really had to struggle to keep up, although I think he did fine in the end. McCain should not be underestimated, although the next debate will favor Obama in its format.
The morning after: Once again, the CBS poll of uncommitted voters gives Obama the win, this time 40% to 26%, with 34% calling it a tie. CNN came up with similar results. This came as a surprise to many pundits, including myself, after the last debate, which we thought was pretty much a tie overall. Putting aside the possibility that the polls' methodologies are flawed, which is always possible, it may just be that the majority of Americans are becoming increasingly unresponsive to McCain's attempts to lie his way into office by misrepresenting his own record as well as Obama's, and that Obama's consistent attempts to tie McCain to the Bush administration's disastrous policies are working. It may also be--there's no way to put this gently--that the aging, chubby, physically awkward (partly due to his war injuries, sure), ungraceful, squeaky-voiced, puffy-faced McCain just cannot match the charisma of a tall, slim, handsome guy who glides around the debate floor like a slightly gawky Fred Astaire, especially when that grotesque physical presence so easily becomes a metaphor for the political putrefaction that is the last 8 years of Republican administration. So watch for Obama to pull even further ahead in polls later this week.
More morning after: Check out the roundup at Talking Points Memo, which includes the latest McCain and Obama ads. McCain, more of the same, hitting Obama's "liberalism"; Obama hits hard on health care, a real winner for liberals.
Widening gap: Gallup is showing Obama with an 11 point lead over McCain nationally, in a poll taken just before the debate.
McCain: War hero or coward? That's the question raised by a piece in Truthdig published yesterday by historian Mary Hershberger, which explores McCain's behavior during the disastrous fire that hit the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal in 1967.