The question of ‘who won last night’ is being wrestled over today like a loose football. How is the debate playing amongst the media? Here’s a sampling:
Mark Halperin of Time gives McCain an A-, Obama a B. On McCain: "It was an impressive performance from a politician who is generally more comfortable offering broad statements and displaying his compelling personality, than focusing on detail and nitty-gritty."
John Podhoretz on the National Review’s "Corner": "In almost every case, Obama answered McCain’s shorthand with longhand — with detailed, even long-winded answers that gave the distinct impression he was more in command of the details of these charges than the man who was trying to go after him on them. We’re not the audience for these debates. Undecided voters are, and undecided voters are, or so studies tell us, often astonishingly ill-informed. You can only bring up new issues if you’re able pithily to explain the context and meaning of them. It is not a rap on McCain to say he’s not good at it; he doesn’t want to bother with the introduction. But in a setting like that, the introduction is what matters, far more than the attack."
Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator called it a "solid win" for McCain. "It wasn’t a knockout by any means. McCain missed some opportunities. He didn’t hit Obama’s lack of experience. He didn’t hit the divided government issue. He didn’t QUITE close the deal entirely on judges or on abortion, although he did well on both. But he won. Oh yes, John McCain won. He was real."
Joe Klein of Time: "I thought McCain was near-incomprehensible when talking about policy, locked in the coffin of conservative thinking and punditry. He spoke in Reagan-era shorthand. He thought that merely invoking the magic words "spread the wealth" and "class warfare" he could neutralize Obama." But those words and phrases seem anachronistic, almost vestigial now."
George Stephanopoulos of ABC News: McCain’s best debate but, "He really didn’t land a knockout blow on Barack Obama, and Obama appeared very calm…"
Patrick Healy of the NY Times: "If Mr. Obama, on the defensive, showed a bit more vim, vigor and vinegar than he had in the previous debates, he also remained calm, cool and collected for the most part — showing survival skills that he learned in his brutal 16-month battle for the nomination against a tough inside fighter, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. That is all Mr. Obama really needed to do to freeze the dynamics of the campaign in place during the debate — dynamics that by and large favor him."
Dan Balz of the Wash Post: "Obama was repeatedly forced Wednesday night to explain himself. But he did not lose his cool under his opponent’s persistent criticism, parrying time and again with measured explanations designed to take the sting out of McCain’s charges with voters who may still be making up their minds. This debate may have been McCain’s strongest performance of the three, but it was also an example of how Obama has used the encounters to try to show that he has not only the knowledge of the issues but also the temperament and the judgment that voters are looking for in a successor to
CNN’s poll gave it to Obama 58-31.
CBS’ poll scored it 53-22 for Obama among uncommitted voters.
The Politico/Insider Advantage poll: 49-46 for Obama, with McCain carrying independents.