McCain had two pretty good debates. Obama had three. I don’t think Obama made any mistakes that can be used against him tonight, though it’s too soon to say. He was fluent and fluid, if not particularly inspiring.
McCain, meanwhile, was just awful — rambling, incoherent at times, ineffective in his attacks, petulant and occasionally angry. This isn’t going to move the polls — certainly not in McCain’s direction.
Best performance of the night: Bob Schieffer. Folksy and charming, and he got out of the way.
11:14 p.m. Wow. CBS News’ insta-poll of uncommitted voters shows Obama winning the debate by a margin of 53 percent to 22 percent. To the extent that you can trust such things, that’s huge. CNN’s insta-poll has similar margins, though it’s slightly skewed toward Democratic voters. And that’s it for tonight. I’ll be rounding up media commentary for the Guardian bright and early.
10:39 p.m. Pundits tying themselves in knots to say nice things about McCain. John King: McCain’s best debate! No way. As CNN went to the break, I could hear Bill Bennett in the background, pimping the lie about Obama and infanticide.
10:28 p.m. Seth gives it to Obama, big-time.
10:27 p.m. Whoa! McCain ends on a sarcastic, snappish note. “Got it — heh, heh.”
10:25 p.m. Why does Sarah Palin know about autism “better than most”? That’s the second time McCain has said that. Is he confusing autism with Down’s?
10:19 p.m. Joe the Plumber hits Twitterspace.
10:16 p.m. Judges and abortion — not a ratings hit. But I wonder how it will play that McCain can barely manage coherently to lodge his accusations, and Obama easily swats them away. McCain’s response: Don’t trust Obama’s “eloquence.” What, he’s supposed to sound tongue-tied?
10:03 p.m. Let the fall health-plan reruns begin. McCain: He’ll fine small businesses! Obama: He’ll tax your insurance! And all of it aimed at Joe the Plumber. What about me?
9:59 p.m. Joe the Plumber! Time for a drink.
9:56 p.m. McCain is singing an ode to President Uribe of Colombia, an ally with a dubious record on human rights.
9:47 p.m. Schieffer’s doing pretty well, I think. Brokaw was sour and obsessed with the clock. Schieffer is not only letting them mix it up, but he seems engaged in a positive way.
9:46 p.m. Now drinking Harvest Moon. This debate isn’t worth anything better.
9:45 p.m. McCain just lied about Biden wanting to divide Iraq into “three countries.”
9:41 p.m. Schieffer throws Obama a high knuckleball that doesn’t break: Why is Biden better than Palin? Obama’s now trotting around second base.
9:40 p.m. Here we go on William Ayers and ACORN. Good grief. McCain can barely make a coherent statement tonight. Obama’s response is devastating in a suitably low-key way.
9:34 p.m. You could look it up: I’ve scored the first two debates as a tie. McCain’s coming off as a doddering old coot tonight.
9:32 p.m. Good for Obama. He’s not only not repudiating John Lewis, he’s giving him some cover.
9:31 p.m. Joe the Plumber! Where is he? If he’s in the audience, bring him up.
9:28 p.m. McCain: “You didn’t tell the American people the truth because you didn’t.” Nyah, nyah.
9:25 p.m. Schieffer: You’ve both been naughty. The dread specter of equivalence rears its head.
9:24 p.m. McCain is coming off as rambling and unfocused. Obama’s not at his sharpest, but he’s better than McCain so far. McCain: Name me one thing on which you’ve opposed your party. Obama: Bing, bing, bing.
9:20 p.m. McCain is peppering Obama with scattershot charges. Should Obama respond to each one, or take a broader approach? He seems to be opting for the broader approach.
9:12 p.m. Plumbers make more money than lefthanded relief specialists. I mean, they deserve it, but I’m not surprised Joe makes more than $250,000 a year.
9:07 p.m. It all comes down to Joe the Plumber.
9:01 p.m. Trader Joe’s microwave popcorn actually tastes like corn.
8:59 p.m. I always get a kick out of seeing the moderator alone on the stage with the crowd dead silent. Thank you, C-SPAN.
This should be interesting. It hasn’t started, and I’m already nodding off on the couch.