Despite the general consensus that the debate was "soporific" draw, it is hard to look back at it and not see it as a win for Sen. Barack Obama.
While it did not provide the fireworks many were hoping for, on both the substantive and stylistic fronts, the meeting explained much.
Much of the McCain campaign has been about defining Obama as unserious, unprepared and inexperienced. In fact, after stripping away McCain's own confusing mix of proposals and rants, his entire campaign is based around attacking Obama on those terms.
Last night Obama deftly dealt with those attacks, excepting the experience issue. Yet even there he deflected those attacks by again raising the question of judgment.
The inexperience issue may still be "operative" but as conservative commentator George Will wrote in a column criticizing McCain's tempestuous temperament and questioning his fitness to be President, "Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?"
McCain pushed his experience and tried to deflect Republican-fatigue by wrapping himself in the "Maverick" flag-even calling himself a Maverick, violating rule one of being a Maverick-but can that overcome a steady effort by the Obama campaign to highlight McCain's record of supporting President George W. Bush (a.k.a. He Who Will Not Be Named) 90% of the time?
Last night Obama looked composed, prepared, respectful and ready. In a word, he showed the voters he was "Presidential" material. The voters seemed to respond positively: CNN, CBS.