I can’t pretend to be unbiased here; I’m for McCain. But as I watched the debate I tried my very best to be objective about the candidates’ performances, because a debate is first and foremost theater.
Part of the time I listened rather than watched. I was surprised at how much warmer McCain’s voice sounded than Obama’s. Without the visuals, there was something in Obama that was very much the eager and bright student who had studied up for the big test. McCain sounded like the teacher, the guy who had done so much that he could speak off the cuff from his vast experience.
I had worried that the two men being on television on the same stage would accentuate the age differential and the height difference, both to McCain’s disadvantage. But it seemed to me that McCain was the peppier of the two, and somehow that gave him an unexpectedly youthful spark. There was nothing doddering about him. Obama seemed callow to me, and McCain’s speaking of his own experience didn’t seem to be hollow bragging, because his demeanor and words matched his assertions.
In summary, McCain presented as a three-dimensional personality and Obama seemed flatly two-dimensional. McCain seemed to be speaking in color and Obama in black and white (oh-oh, have I opened myself up to the ubiquitous charges of racism?)
[ADDENDUM: And I give Lehrer props for not being too intrusive or showing marked favoritism. I couldn't stand that "talk to him" remark, though. What does Lehrer think he is, a therapist?
To me Obama's lowest point was when he said he had a bracelet too. It made him sound like a petulant child.
Another thought: My guess is that Obama was expecting to wipe the floor with McCain because Obama believes his own rhetoric that McCain is tired and worn out. Obama was surprised this time. Next time he will either be less surprised and more prepared, or he will be less confident and therefore more nervous.]