1. It was surprising to me that Barack Obama had no real comeback to John McCain very effectively linking him to Fannie/Freddie debacle. Wow. Being the second largest recipient of Fannie/Freddie money "in history" is, I'll bet you, a fact that most of those watching the debate didn't know.
2. McCain's attack about "jello on the wall" and Obama's tax plans was, in my view, fairly effective. He had specifics about how he would cut taxes; Obama didn't. The mandates and fines for small business point that McCain made was also fairly effective. It struck a false note a little earlier when Barack started talking about doubling the Peace Corps and all that. Really, is that where we should be prioritizing at this point?
3. Talk about the audacity of hope -- Barack referenced his "first term" in discussing entitlement reform. Everyone should be that confident, no?
4. GREAT POINT. Barack promised a "middle tax class cut" when running for the Senate. Got to DC and did . . . nada. Why would that change now? It would be nice to see that in an ad (hint, hint).
5. Senator McCain needs to call Barack Obama "Barack Obama." I know he's trying to sound indirect and therefore not harsh, but, please, find another way. "That one" isn't how to do it. All of a sudden, "my friend" doesn't sound so bad. That being said, it's hardly the big deal that, no doubt, the Obama campaign will try to make of it.
6. Thank you, Senator McCain, for noting that Barack Obama would fine small businesses that don't cover their employees' health care. And for calling Obama on not telling how much the fines would be.
7. McCain's depth and understanding of foreign issues is obvious, if anyone stayed awake long enough to hear it. And his explicit invocation of America as a "force for good" is an implicit contrast to his opponent's "blame America first" mentality.
8. Barack seems willing to intervene to stop "cruelty" around the world where "we can." Except, I guess, when it's Iraq.
9. "You're a doing fine, job, Tom," Barack pats the moderator on the head. Geez. Reminds you of the "You're likable enough, Hillary," doesn't it?
10. McCain: "We can never allow a second Holocaust to take place." Barack's response to the question about Iranian nukes and Israel sounds shallow next to McCain. One guy is equivocal about protecting Israel; one isn't.
The debate was a draw. It seems that both candidates are willing to play it safe -- surprising, at least, for McCain, given that he's behind. His answers were more solid, and better . . . but, for the most part, he allowed Barack to be his usual, glib self (although I'm not sure that Barack came off as likable as he has in the past). McCain was effective, but there were many missed opportunities and anyone hoping this debate would be a game-changer is bound to be disappointed.