I sort of agree with what I've seen from looking around the net so far, which is that it was a tie -- both did OK, neither did amazingly better than the other. Given that people claim Obama needs to show his stature, and that this is supposedly McCain's strong area, and that Obama is slightly ahead, one could argue that this favors Obama. But personally, given how appallingly bad McCain is, I always find it incredibly grating to watch these things -- wondering at every moment why the candidate I support isn't doing better, attacking more, tearing the other guy to verbal shreds. (Update: Kind of like this. Damn. Now that's some good shredding. Kinda makes me look forward to the VP debate...)
But I guess it was a tie. (...Unless anyone looks to substance. But seriously, folks...)
A few offhand questions: Isn't it just weird to talk about earmarks when you're debating the financial crisis? Is McCain giving us his travel itinerary really worth our time? And I thought that he dropped the whole "experience" talking point when he picked Sarah Palin. Now that's back on?
I haven't gone and checked, but it seems to me that McCain told a reasonable number of lies. Did he just deny his record of voting against alternative energy?
Mainly, though, while I think it was a tie -- and it certainly didn't make me think any better of McCain -- it was, overall, quite disappointing as a picture of Obama. He was far, far more hawkish than I would like to see. (I mean, supporting missile defense? What the hell is that?) And his overall posture towards Iran was far more hostile than I'd like to see; not to mention my serious misgivings about trying to ramp up the war in Afghanistan... So while McCain came across -- to me, I mean, not to the country -- as a blithering idiot, Obama came across as a depressingly centrist, hawkish Democrat.
So while of course I'll vote for him -- I certainly don't want McCain to be president, and like it or not them's the choices -- the whole thing was a bit depressing all around.
Update: A few additional points...
* All the props that the moderator, Jim Lehrer, is getting are deserved: serious questions on serious topics, and he let them talk to each other (which the format called for, but props for letting them run over when appropriate). No hand-raising. It's good to have real questions.
* So far as I can recall (I'm not going to go check the transcript), came pretty much made all 10 of these predicted distortions on his foreign policy record. Some were implications rather than statements, but he certainly came close to all ten points, and directly made a lot of them.
* Everyone's reporting that the insta-polls are giving the debate to Obama. Someone pointed out... frustratingly, I can't find the link... that the pitch here isn't to people like me, but to undecideds: and they don't like direct squabbling as much as partisans do. Mark Scmitt makes a related point here, that while there were lots of things Obama could have called McCain on, it was better overall that he didn't. So my yearning for more shredding of McCain's nonsense was perhaps better left unfulfilled.
* Notwithstanding the former point, I can't help but feeling frustrated that Obama let McCain control the terrain so much -- and on silly or even misleading terrain at that. When McCain starts talking about spending/earmarks in response to the financial crisis, why no point out more forcefully that these issues have no real bearing on it (as opposed to trying to engage McCain on that terrain as Obama did)? And so forth.
* Missile defense?!? A billions-of-dollars-boondoggle that by all reports will never work? WTF?