At Ole Miss, we were kept busy Debate Week. Lots of interviews with print, radio and television journalists. Good fun. Yet, at the end of the night, I watched it on television (albeit in the media tent next to the Ford Center) like most Americans.
I felt that Senator Obama was stronger on the economic points early in the debate. He did a better job of talking to the middle class and explaining why his policies would benefit the middle class. He was very good at explaining how the Republican philosophy is an illusion: cut taxes, cut regulation = a growing gap between rich and poor and a shrinking middle class.
I did not like how often Obama said "I agree with you, John" during the debate. To me, it seemed a little demeaning and I did not think he needed to go there. Obama is more likely to work to find a consensus on contentious policy matters and polling seems to bear this view out. Many independents seem to find Obama more agreeable, so he might end up benefiting by appearing more concerned with opposing viewpoints. It certainly makes him seem less partisan, and McCain more partisan.
Senator McCain can barely hide his disdain for Obama. His disrespect for Obama (his peer) is palpable. It feeds into the notion that McCain is too dismissive of competing viewpoints. While Obama handled his own on foreign policy, McCain used his experience to his advantage. Many Americans were sure to be impressed by the litany of places McCain has visited and many world leaders he has met.
Is that actually trivial? It shouldn't be, but it is. In 2000, George Bush practically bragged about how few places he'd visited. Yet, Americans were quite comfortable electing a provincial nativist in '00,;now it seems McCain can challenge Obama because he's only been to Iraq twice.
Finally, McCain was more aggressive and punchy as the debate wore on. Obama was reduced to parrying McCain's jabs, but could not really go on the offensive, which I thought would suit his needs better. I call it a draw.