On the whole, I think that last night's debate (like the first one) was pretty much a tie. Neither candidate delivered any sort of knockout punch that's going to settle this election a month before the actual voting. Obama didn't say anything about bitter, small-minded Main Streeters and McCain didn't go off into a raving rant about Obama being friends with terrorists. Both clearly presented their views, which while contrasting, don't necessarily give one side an advantage over the other.
That said, I think that another tie probably favors Obama. Remember, McCain is the one who's experienced - the "steady hand on the tiller" as he said. But now in two debates, he's not been able to come across as noticeably more presidential or in command than Obama. If the concern with Obama is that he's too "green behind the ears" (a new one to me) then being able to stand toe to toe with McCain and appear plausible as president is a victory. Despite a slow start where my panic level was beginning to rise, I think he did just that. I don't think polls will show one candidate "winning" the debate by any great margin over their opponent. However, I do think that the election polls are going to continue to slide over to Obama's favor.
Now for some random thoughts.
John McCain should stop trying to be funny in the debates. He just isn't and the attempts at it come across as very awkward. Obama isn't an especially funny guy either, but he didn't make as many attempts.
Newsweek's cover a few weeks back showed "Mr. Cool and Mr. Hot." I thought those personalities were on vivid display last night. Where McCain paced around and spoke like he was always pressing an important point, Obama stayed mainly in one place and had a fluid, point-by-point answer. I don't think that either personality - as we saw them in display last night - makes one better or worse suited for the presidency. It was just a clear picture in contrasts.
The exchange on Pakistan was interesting. McCain wasn't saying that he wouldn't launch an attack into Pakistan if Osama bin Laden were there. He was just saying that we shouldn't say we're going to do that. I'm not sure if that makes a whole lot of sense. Also, his assertion that "I'll get bin Laden. I'll get him" would have been more convincing if he'd followed it up with anything to say how.
Lastly, I thought Tom Brokaw was terrible last night. The telling moment came at the end when the candidates went to shake hands and he was trying to read his teleprompter. He basically said, "Hey, you presidential candidates, get out of my way. I'm trying to read something here." The whole debate was kind of like that. He was continually whining (is there another word for it) about the candidates not sticking to time constraints. Also, his "follow-up" questions were overly wordy/complicated and seldom actually followed up on the original question asked or the answers that the candidates gave. It's like he really wanted to be moderating a debate on his own, rather than hosting the town hall debate. Who would have guessed after the first debate that we'd be longing for the good old days of Jim Lehrer moderating?