Now that the first presidential debate is over, the question that everyone is asking is who won?
Each side will, of course, claim victory. But pundits (and probably voters, too) go into these things looking for a clear victor.
One of the cardinal rules of debates is to not say anything that will come back as a sound bite that can be used against you later. While there weren't any major verbal gaffes, the McCain campaign didn't waste any time making an ad from one of Senator Obama's minor gaffes. The speed with which that ad appeared is just further testimony of how media saavy McCain's campaign really is.
My impression is that Senator Obama started strong when the questions were more focused on the economy and gradually got weaker as the shift moved to foreign affairs. Senaor McCain, on the other hand, started out weaker and got better as the night wore on.
Although the pre-debate coverage indicated that Senator Obama would try to get under Senator McCain's skin it seemed to me (especially when they went to split screen - I was watching it on Fox News) that Obama seemed more irritated, interrupted Senator McCain frequently, and would often try to get the last word in. These are all minor issues overall but seemed to make Senator Obama seem smaller and consequently less presidential.
There's no question these two candidates are extremely intelligent and both performed well under pressure. No major mistakes were made. But at the end of the day I think Senator McCain still has an edge in terms of having the character and experience necessary to be President. It remains to be seen whether voters will draw the same conclusion.