Didn’t watch it. My gal on the street says Obama won. The focus groups say Obama won. So I guess Obama won.
UPDATE: The Next Right says McCain crushed. I think this proves Isaac Chotiner’s point – if you’re stuck inside the GOP bubble, you have no way of measuring the salience of partisan attacks. I’m sure the Republican party faithful found the Ayers nonsense incredibly persuasive – but these are the same people who are arguing over Obama’s Maoist sympathies. On the other side of the fence, the last few decades of conservative dominance have forced liberals to tailor their talking points to an unfriendly media environment. I wouldn’t go to The Daily Kos for post-debate analysis, but websites like TNR and The American Prospect do a decent job of evaluating liberal arguments in light of actual public opinion. As a purely tactical matter, the GOP will continue to lag politically so long as Rush Limbaugh and National Review define its electoral approach.
UPDATE II: See also James Fallows:
Here’s why the third debate, and all three debates, helped Obama so much more than McCain.In general-election debates, it’s a losing strategy to “rally the base.” That’s what your own campaign events, and your fund-raisers, and your targeted ads, and your running mate are for. Especially by the time of the second and third debates, the job is to “rally the center.” That’s where most of remaining persuadable and undecided voters are.Everything about Barack Obama’s approach to this debate, and all debates, was consistent with this reality. Almost nothing about John McCain’s approach was.
I imagine it’s pretty difficult to “rally the center” when your targetting reticule is aimed squarely at the radical fringe.