"It was clear that despite McCain's longer experience, Obama is a more able and persuasive debater. Game. Set. Match?" Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh writes.
The playing field was not level -- since this is about an election, not points: "McCain simply needed a breakout performance and he failed to provide one. He went into the forum trailing Obama in polls of the contest and he came out of in the same position," David Yepsen writes in his Des Moines Register column.
What McCain did do (finally): "You can talk all you want about Joe the Plumber, but the moment of the final presidential debate, held last night at Hofstra University on Long Island, came when John McCain said, quickly and cleanly, 'Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago,' " National Review's Byron York reports.
Yet don't overlook this part of the strategy (and if he didn't attack, that fact would not be overlooked): "McCain clearly brought Obama down a peg or two by trying to make him out to be a lying liberal run of the mill politician. That plays well to the base," the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody writes.
Or this part of the strategy (what's worse than a disappointed running mate?): "Barack Obama even has called John McCain out on this saying, 'Hey, if you've got something to say, say it to my face in a debate,' " Gov. Sarah Palin told WMUR-TV, ABC's New Hampshire affiliate, before the debate. "So we'll see tonight if John McCain does that."
For her part, what she's said, she'd say again: "Although Sarah Palin did not mention Barack Obama's ties to former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers during her speech at Dover High School yesterday, the Alaska governor said afterward she would not hesitate to repeat on the stump that Obama is 'palling around with terrorists,' " John DiStaso writes in the New Hampshire Union-Leader.
"I'd use that term again in a heartbeat," Palin said in an interview, "because, I'll tell you, when you kick off your political career in the living room of an unrepentant, known domestic terrorist and then you continue that association with him via e-mails, phone calls, sitting on boards together, working on -- quote, unquote -- education reform together, characterizing that as 'palling around,' I would use that characterization again."
She gets creative on "Troopergate": "She said the state's Web site invites Alaskans to voice concerns about any state trooper to the commissioner's office, 'and that's what my husband did,' " DiStaso writes.
And who's handling the baseball advice -- Rudy Giuliani? "We're counting on you because Red Sox fans know how to turn an underdog into a victor, and that's exactly what you can help us do on November Fourth!" Palin said in Salem, N.H., Wednesday.
Per ABC's Imtiyaz Delawala: "While Palin's support for the Red Sox could be seen as noble support for the underdog as they stand on the brink of elimination, there's just one problem with her remarks: Palin made nearly identical comments in Florida last week in praise of the Tampa Bay Rays."
This is hate speech: "As Palin made her Red Sox reference, one man shouted, 'Obama's a Yankees fan!' "
Best spin you can bark at: "I knew McCain before there was indoor plumbing," Triumph the Insult Comic Dog told reporters in the spin room, per Politico's Ben Smith.