It was impressive to watch John McCain hold his own on issues of the domestic economy while moderator Jim Lehrer lingered for almost the first 40 minutes. I saw McCain smiling and anxious to speak, while Obama alternated between staged confidence, mock impatience, and outright anger. Obama could not shine, but neither could score a knockout. Obama blamed Bush/McCain, but McCain, I think, successfully ejected Bush from the equation, which was what he had to do.
When the switched to foreign policy, the alleged topic of this debate, it was a string of bludgeoning blows. McCain seemed to be traversing familiar ground, and he was. Obama appeared to be reciting memorized cue cards written by David Axelrod more than by any foreign policy expert. Name dropping, Obama dropped the ball when he invoked Henry Kissinger, whom McCain then referred to as his friend of thirty years. Dropping names, McCain dropped Reagan. Obama couldn't touch it.
McCain was the adult professor, dealing with foreign policy with names and places and issues. Obama… oh, not so much. I'm more comfortable with John McCain. Obama, again, recited Axelrodian foreign policy lines, more political than substantive, and tried to change the subject to investment in early childhood education and such weighty issues.
What matters, though, is what the perception-shapers think. The media. There are many Americans who watched the debate and came away with their own opinions of the performance, but those who can be shaped will be swayed by the media. The ball's in their court. McCain scored no knockout, so they can argue whatever it is they wish.
This debate was not close, but let's hear the sounbytes.