A Win For McCain
That's my insta-verdict, at least. Obama had quite a few effective moments: On middle-class tax cuts, on health care, and on the original decision to invade Iraq, he made points that went unrebutted, and sometimes I thought McCain laid it on a little thick with his lists of countries visited, shout-outs to ancient legislation he supported, and so forth. But the spectre of fiscal calamity blunted Obama's edge on domestic policy, and on foreign affairs McCain set the tempo and kept his rival on the defensive almost throughout, I thought: The Democratic nominee found himself alternating between me-tooism and defensiveness, albeit without making any serious missteps. The Obama camp's spin is that McCain talked endlessly about the past, and Americans want the election to be about the future - which is a fair point, in a sense, and if Obama ends up with a bounce in the polls from this debate, McCain's insistence on invoking his record and his experience at every opportunity won't look like a good strategy. But in the moment, in a debate that focused on foreign policy, I thought it wore well: Obama seemed smooth enough but also somewhat callow, and McCain just seemed like someone who's, well, "ready to lead," as all his campaign ads have it.