10:37 p.m. Basically a tie. McCain reminds us that he’s no Bush, who could barely make it through any of these things. Obama, as the new guy, ought to get the biggest boost for showing he can go toe-to-toe with McCain. But low expectations probably translate into this being considered a good night for McCain. And good night from Media Nation.
10:23 p.m. McCain’s best stretch of the night — a historical and contemporary disquisition on Russia and its neighbors. More sabre-rattling, but assures us that we’re not returning to the Cold War. Obama agrees with McCain — no doubt too dicey to take on the issue of Georgian aggression in a sound-bite setting.
10:17 p.m. Obama’s telling the truth about Kissinger and Iran. McCain isn’t.
10:12 p.m. Obama’s best stretch of the night. Says he’ll meet with anyone if it will enhance U.S. security. Notes that McCain adviser Henry Kissinger says we should meet with Iran “without preconditions.” And observes that North Korea went wild on nuke buildup after we cut off ties.
10:09 p.m. McCain: Obama wants to sit down with Ahmadinejad and “legitimize” a regime that wants to destroy Israel. Says he’ll sit down with anyone, but not without “preconditions.”
10:08 p.m. Sabre-rattling on Iran. McCain sounds like he’s ready to go to war tomorrow. Obama wants “tough, direct diplomacy.” “This notion that by not talking to people, we’re punishing them has not worked.”
10:02 p.m. McCain is too maudlin and long-winded about his bracelet. Obama barely mentions his, and seems petulant. Don’t either of these guys know how to get the symbolism right?
10 p.m. My bracelet’s better than yours.
9:56 p.m. Globe-trotting one-upmanship. Obama: I’ve talked to President Karzai. McCain: I’ve been to Waziristan.
9:49 p.m. Obama shifts the turf from Iraq to Afghanistan, and seems more comfortable in so doing. Put more troops into Afghanistan to “capture and kill bin Laden and crush Al Qaeda.”
9:44 p.m. The war versus the surge. McCain says Obama was wrong about the surge. Obama says McCain was wrong about the war. McCain says the next president won’t have to decide whether to go to war in Iraq. But the next president could decide to go to war somewhere else, couldn’t he? “Sen. Obama refuses to acknowledge that we’re winning the war in Iraq.” “That’s not true. That’s not true.”
9:36 p.m. Obama’s warming up.
9:34 p.m. Think of it as a job interview. Obama comes across as cool, competent and a little bloodless. McCain? Passionate, experienced but unpredictable. Whom would you hire?
9:29 p.m. Switching from CNN to C-SPAN so I don’t have to look at the stupid audience-reaction meter.
9:27 p.m. McCain’s showing his less attractive side. Accuses Obama of wanting to raise taxes on everyone making more than $42,000 (“Not true,” replies Obama), and then snickers the way he used to snicker at Romney.
9:21 p.m. Does it seem to anyone else that McCain has been talking about three times as much as Obama?
9:18 p.m. McCain is talking about simple, understandable themes. I can barely understand Obama, and I’m addicted to this stuff.
9:12 p.m. Obama is talking ideas. McCain is talking values. Guess which is more effective?
9:10 p.m. Jim Lehrer wants to know if Obama and McCain are going to vote for the bailout plan. But there is no plan yet.
I’m not a huge fan of live-blogging events, but I’m going to give it a try tonight. I’m hoping it will help me organize my thoughts as I get ready to round up media commentary on the debate for the Guardian tomorrow morning.