10.33 pm. This was, I think, a mauling: a devastating and possibly electorally fatal debate for McCain. Even on Russia, he sounded a little out of it. I've watched a lot of debates and participated in many. I love debate and was trained as a boy in the British system to be a debater. I debated dozens of times at Oxofrd. All I can say is that, simply on terms of substance, clarity, empathy, style and authority, this has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out.It has been about as big a wipe-out as I can remember in a presidential debate. It reminds me of the 1992 Clinton-Perot-Bush debate. I don't really see how the McCain campaign survives this.
10.26 pm. Israel and Iran: I'm relieved that this question is raised. It's the hardest question the next president will have to face. I honestly feel very conflicted about this. I want to know how these candidates will react. McCain's invocation of a "league of democracies" as the answer is a little bizarre. Obama's answer was very political and very persuasive. I just don't believe we can stop Iran, although Obama's answer on gasoline imports was specific and smart. He won the exchange, but he didn't convince me. I wish he had.
10.15 pm. This is Obama's sucker-punch. "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran." Ouch. Pow. Oof. Nothing aloof about that right hook.
10.11 pm. "We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al Qaeda." This is a Democratic candidate. Can you remember the last one who used rhetoric like that on national security?
10.07 pm. McCain's response on the surge and genocide was a good one. I'm not sure that the surge has solved anything rather than simply freezing the civil war in place, but he has a decent moral point on this. But Obama's measured mix of moral concern with pragmatic alliance-building was very strong. It's really a return to Niebuhrian realism.
10.02 pm. It would have been a strong moment for McCain when he cited "no on the job training" in the White House. And then he picked Palin! She can't even hold a press conference and he thinks she can be trusted with national security at a moment's notice. It makes no sense.
9.59 pm. On CNN, Obama has reached the maximum with women voters a few times and literally couldn't go up any further. The gender gap is very powerful in these debate insta-reax polls at least. Even Palin ran well behind with women.
9.56 pm. Mandates? I thought I sat through countless debates with Hillary when Obama was opposed to mandates, while Hillary was in favor of them. His response about his mother was very powerful.
9.55 pm. Hair transplants? Where on earth did that come from?
9.54 pm. McCain: "Obama will find you." He's treating him like the Boogeyman. People know he isn't. So it just makes McCain look paranoid.