McCain won, hands down, particularly when the conversation shiffted to war and national security. McCain was comfortable, fluent, principled and direct. Obama was weak and defensive.
There are many words to describe McCain's composure last night, but comfortable surely isn't one of them. And maybe I'm just stuck on the contrast with John Kerry, but Obama didn't seem weak and defensive to me; he stood his ground and hit back. I didn't always agree with what he had to say—when it came to NATO expansion, he sounded as crazy as his opponent—but he sure seemed to believe it himself.
They say the real winner of a debate is the man who exceeds expectations, so in that spirit I'll give the prize to Jim Lehrer. I haven't been a fan of his in the past, but I appreciated his dogged efforts to get a straight answer out of the candidates about whether they're backing the bailout. And it was good to see him encouraging the duo to engage each other. After the Blitzer/Matthews disasters, Lehrer acquited himself well; he was the only man on stage that I liked more after the debate than before it.