Ezra Klein got this right, I think:
This is a pretty traditional debate performance for Obama. Strong on substance. Few mistakes. Little in the way of killer instinct or decapitating lines. McCain, by contrast, is offering an uncommonly strong performance powered, as far as I can tell, by his raging contempt for Obama. He won't look at him. He's using "what Senator Obama doesn't understand" the way Joe Biden uses "ladies and gentlemen." His constant refrain is the places he's visited, leaders he's befriended, aging advisers and presidents he's known. Obama is conveying the fact that he thinks McCain wrong. But McCain is conveying the fact that he thinks Obama an unprepared lightweight. One of these is a stronger claim than the other.
John Podhoretz notes that some analysts are spinning this against McCain - he was disrespectful, wouldn't make eye contact, etc. I'm pretty sure that isn't how it's going to play, but I guess we'll have to wait for the inevitable SNL skit to know for sure ...
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