I think the primary theme of the debate for me was how close both candidates, especially in their non-verbal behavior, mirrored their campaign behavior in the debate. McCain appeared snarky, petulant, and annoyed at many moments; while Obama was calm, measured, yet forceful. I watched the coverage on NBC and they had the split shot going for the majority of the debate, and if you go back and watch it with the volume off, I think you might catch a bit of what I'm suggesting. And don't underestimate the importance of non-verbal signals; Al Gore's sighs may have cost him in 2000; Bush 41 looking at his watch may have cost him in 1992. Additional quick hitters:
- McCain hurts his image, especially the developing narrative of his lack of knowledge concerning domestic issues, with his fetish on earmarks. Spending isn't just earmarks - and many of which are for legitimate projects -it's inexorably tied with revenue, and McCain's tax plan just isn't going to make up for any decreases in earmarks.
- Obama's knife and scalpel analogy played well, and supported a narrative of the two candidates that's to Obama's benefit - with McCain being an unpredictable battering ram, and Obama being a measured tactician.
- You have to think that McCain's belittling of Obama, the snarky putdowns of "naivete" or "simply does not understand," hurts his standing with the swing voters; it doesn't appear Presidential; it paints him, ironically, as naive; and most significantly, viewers could see it as untrue when Obama responds to his putdowns by demonstrating an ample understanding of foreign policy.