(All times Central)
9:39 (Debate over):Instant reaction: no clear winner or loser. McCain had his moments, especially at the end of the debate when he sort of rolled over Obama on a couple issues. (Iran, namely) I'm interested to see how that plays. Generally, however, Obama gave a good account of himself on foreign policy. If this debate was about convincing Americans that he wasn't a little boy trying to sit at the grown-up table, it was a success. He didn't look scared or intimidated. And the first 30 or 40 minutes, focused almost entirely on the financial crisis, played into Obama's strengths.
If McCain performed poorly, it might have ended his campaign. He avoided that. But I think Obama avoided any sort of blunder that would endanger his front-runner status.
9:27: That's twice now where McCain has verbally steamrolled Obama and Obama has pretty much smiled it away. I don't know how that'll look, whether Obama will come off as controlled and patient or like a doormat.
9:17: McCain just rolled over Obama in an exchange about presidential level meetings. It's not that his arguments had any extraordinary force behind them, but he kept talking and Obama couldn't wriggle his way into the conversation. Lehrer didn't do a great job of shutting down McCain, and Obama wasn't forceful enough.
9:12: Obama has a great response here, but sort of ruins it with the "there's a difference between preconditions and preparations" line. I know what he's saying, but that's too cutesy and Clintonesque.
9:10: And that was a good response. Tough, but realistic. McCain comes back with the argument that Obama will meet with Ahmadinejad.
9:06: McCain's excoriating Iran. Obama has to be careful that he doesn't go overboard in trying to prove that he's "Barack Obama, Friend of Israel And Tough Fighter."
9:02: McCain tells a touching story about a bracelet he was given by the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. Obama points out his own bracelet, given to him by another mother. This is dangerous: you don't want to play dueling mothers.
8:58: Obama just launched the toughest attack of the night. He said that McCain's plea for vocal caution is rather silly coming from someone who sings songs about bombing Iran.
8:50: I'm biased, but I think this is a good exchange for Obama. He's making the case that the war in Iraq is distracting us from the War on Terror as a whole. He did have to make a difficult argument on a troop funding bill, which has an unfortunate "I voted for it before I voted against it" vibe.
8:46: And he doesn't let him do that. Obama is blasting McCain on a whole series of judgment questions.
8:45: McCain tries to move away from the question of whether the Iraq War was a good idea at all. Obama shouldn't let him do that.
8:43: Did you know that Barack Obama opposed the war from the start?
8:40: McCain's economic plan comes down to cutting spending. Obama ties him to Bush, using the "votes with Bush 90 percent of the time" line.
8:37: McCain slams Obama on offshore oil drilling. Lehrer slams his head on the desk trying to get an answer to his original question about changing priorities after the financial collapse, and Obama misses a chance to fight back on drilling.
8:35: McCain wants to consider a spending freeze on everything but defense, entitlements and veteran's affairs. Obama calls this using a hatchet when a scalpel is needed. And we have our first mention of Iraq!
8:34: There is an Amber Alert in Ottawa, Kansas.
8:31: McCain on Obama's record: It's hard to reach across the aisle from that far on the left.
8:30: All these debate sites are made to look identical. I think they should all these things outdoors, work in some local flavor. Ole Miss has a beautiful campus. Put up a magnolia tree or something.
8:27: The "foreign policy debate" has yet to leave these borders.
8:26: McCain uses the word "festoon." He wins the battle for best word. Obama needs to break out "celerity" if he wants to catch up.
8:25: I like this format so far. They're going back and forth, and Lehrer isn't getting in the way.
8:23: McCain with a nice free market attack on the business tax. He explained that well.
8:21: Obama: Eliminating earmarks alone is not a strategy for helping the middle class. A nice line, maybe mitigating the fact that he just seemed to talk about a line item veto.
8:19: Obama points out that eliminating earmarks won't pay for McCain's corporate tax cuts. Not a bad little slash there. Shoehorn the "McCain cuts taxes for big corporations" argument into an irrelevant question, bring up your own middle class tax cut.
8:19: About 20 minutes in, and McCain hasn't done much attacking.
8:18: McCain just said he'd veto "every spending bill" that crossed his desk. I don't think that's what he was going for.
8:16: I'm tempted to vote for the first candidate to pass on a chance to use the "Main Street vs. Wall Street" meme.
8:15: Lehrer really wants these two to speak directly to each other.
8:13: McCain brings in a barely relevant anecdote about Eisenhower and the Normany invasion. He also says he's caught flak for calling for the SEC chair's resignation, when, in reality, he caught flak for saying he'd like to fire the SEC chair. Which he can't do.
8:11: Lehrer presses the point, but Obama pivots away to praising himself for his foresight. Ditto for McCain.
8:10: Same question to McCain. He doesn't offer a position on any specific plan.
8:07: Lehrer starts by asking Obama about the bailout plan. Obama offers a fairly standard set of Democratic conditions (oversight, limits on executive compensation, equity stake, etc.) and attacks McCain in the process. Nothing terribly specific.
8:03: Lehrer pronounces his last name "Lay-ruh"
8:00: I'm watching this debate on exciting high definition. Obama's mole! McCain's melanoma scars! I can see it all.
7:52: Hello and welcome to the Distressed Reporter laptop, located in lovely DeSoto, KS. From here I'll be live blogging tonight's debate between Senators McCain and Obama. Expect serious analysis, insightful commentary and blatantly partisan spin.