Pundits have already begun to weigh on tonight's debate. Here is a roundup of some of the reactions.
Tonight, we saw a McXplosion. Every single attack that Sen. McCain has ever wanted to make, he took the opportunity tonight to make. Around 30 minutes in, McCain seemed to surrender the debate to his frustrations, making it seem as if he just wanted the free television. His substance suffered; it didn't make sense at times.
This debate was a lot more confrontational than the first two, with Mr. McCain repeatedly taking jabs at Mr. Obama. Whether it was enough to reverse Mr. McCain's sagging fortunes remains to be seen.
It seems like we've now seen McCain's Ayers/ACORN primal scream. I'm not sure Obama knocked anything out of the park. But at the end of it, I don't think McCain landed any solid punches either. And McCain was often incoherent and a bit kitchen-sinkish. Basically a draw, though if recent polls are any indication, the draw in debate terms may hurt McCain since people do not like McCain's attacks.
McCain seemed almost wistful. Obama ended on "sacrifice, service and responsibility." Obama won this for the third time. A small prediction: there will be YouTube mash-ups of McCain's facial reactions on the split screen. And they will have a longer life, for good or ill, than many of the substantive exchanges.
I thought John McCain was more effective and coherent tonight than in the previous two debates. He mostly controlled the terms of the debate, in part by defining the average American as a plumber who earns more than $250,000 a year. His points, though often inaccurate, were not always rebutted (in part because Obama simply didn't have time to rebut every allegation.)
However, McCain lost the overall message of the debate. The cost of McCain's sharper tone was that he sounded more like a dogmatic Republican. Obama was softer, let many points go, but was much more effective at sounding like a moderate.
McCain: Substance: Grade: A-
Style: Grade: B+
Offense: Grade: A-
Defense: Grade: A-
Obama: ubstance: Grade: B
Style: Grade: B-
Offense: Grade: C+
Defense: Grade: B+