Right now, McCain is behind. With the Palin pick being increasingly seen as a mistake and the “suspension” being seen largely as a political stunt, McCain needed a big win to change the momentum. He’s currently at risk of being seen as preferring “Maverickness” to stability.
For Obama, the big goal he had was to appear presidential and knowledgeable. The concerns about his inexperience and “otherness” are still strong, so he needed to show that he was intelligent, ready, serious, and presidential.
I thought both looked largely ready to be President. Even if Obama got under McCain’s skin a bit more, neither had a home run and neither had a major blunder. That plays much better for Obama – he needed just to show that he was in the same ballpark of competence on foreign policy as McCain, and he did it. McCain needed to show that he’s more competent and not erratic. He succeeded on the second, but not on the first.
Overall, though, we’ll have to wait until tonight’s SNL parody to see how this debate will be remembered…
Update on the SNL parodies:
The opening Sarah Palin sketch was great. I think that Palin has officially become a Quayle-level embarrassment and liability, if not worse. She possibly could redeem herself on Thursday (at my alma mater!) or if Biden messes up, but I doubt it.
The debate sketch was ok, not great. I think the “McCain is a maverick out of control” idea reflected the past week enough to resonate, but the “race card” and “protecting Chicago corruption” gags against Obama seemed to be more about making sure they hit both sides than a commentary on the week.
Both Obama and McCain did well enough in the debate itself that there wasn’t much directly to make fun of, but McCain’s week was so bizarre that he really opened himself up for an attack, and it hit home.