My colleague Steve Greenhut and I did live-blog tonight's debate over at the Orange County Register's Orange Punch blog, so if you want to see real-time reactions, including to the cable news media coverage, you might want to click over there. I have just a couple more observations here.
On several occasions, when Obama came back with a fairly smooth response to one of McCain's charges or criticisms, McCain would come back with a relatively dismissive reference to Obama's "eloquence." I think I know what he was trying to do: dismiss what Obama had just said as merely a smooth but fact-free statement, and perhaps trying to garner some underdog sympathy for the plain-spoken straight talker. But in using the word "eloquence," I think he gave Obama more credit than he should have; I suspect people value eloquence in a president. Maybe a word like "smooth talker" would have been more effective.
Botoom line: I think this was McCain's best performance, and he certainly did some attacking on specifics. He may even have won on points if you were scoring as a debate judge would. But I think he didn't come close to doing enough to turn the race around, and I'm not sure what he could do that would. As I've mentioned before, I think he lost his best chance by not opposing the $700 billion bank bailout. I haven't talked to anybody who isn't in the political or chattering classes who favored that ill-conceived move, and the stock markets seem to agree.