I think a lot of the insta-analysis is missing the point. It's all about the lack of a "game changer", no memorable sound bite, Brokaw bickering about not following the time guidelines, etc. However, one of the benefits that I find about live-blogging is that I get a better sense of the substance of the debate (even as I lose the ability to sense the atmospherics as acutely as I might were I not distracted by typing). And when the substance gets reviewed and chewed on, McCain will look much better in comparison. I predict that people will be talking about the mortgage proposal that McCain introduced for the next few news cycles.
McCain didn't do all the nifty debate things he might have done, like pivoting on a key word in order to get off some zingers (e.g., education? Let me tell you about Senator Obama's experience with education in Chicago and with a guy named Bill Ayers). However, he has to take the game to Obama in the next four weeks, and not rely on these stilted debates to get his message out. I reiterate my call for a campaign event in Fort Dix. The more I think about it, the more I think it would be a great venue for Sarah Palin. She gets to do the VP-as-attack-dog thing, she can personalize it by way of reference to her son Track, and she has a way of getting under the skin of the left that McCain doesn't.
I would also remind everyone of the wisdom of Thomas Sowell: the issue with Obama and Ayers, Rezko, Wright, Pfleger, etc. isn't "association", it's "alliance" - it's not just being near them, it's aligning himself with them and their goals. Make that an issue that can be tied back into the current issues in this campaign (judgment, view of America, middle class-ness, etc).
And I will close before going to bed with this from Bill Hobbs:
Reality Check: Al Gore lead George W. Bush by 11 points in the Gallup Poll taken Oct. 2-6, 2000