If you split the debate into 1/3 -- and then only watch the first 1/3 and the last 1/3 -- I suppose I'd give it McCain (though, I thought McCain's sneering "health of the mother" is gonna hurt him... bad. I'd be willing to bet 95% of undecided women are pro-choice).
I think we both agree that McCain was extremely strong in the first 1/3. I don't know that Obama was flat, but it most definitely wasn't his best segment... not a disaster, but McCain really was just good for that first 20-25 minutes.
I thought the last 1/3 was pretty evenly matched. Obama was better than he opened, McCain not as good -- but not bad either. I think I'd still score the last 1/3 for Obama, but only by a hair, and almost solely on the sneering 'health of the mother' comment... but add it to the first 1/3, and that's definitely a McCain win.
Except... there's that middle 1/3.
I thought that middle 1/3 was an utter disaster for McCain. I thought that approached a near caricature of all the worst things about McCain 2008.... It was basically the "Tao of McCain 08". The ugly sneering and the pitiful self-loathing.
Unlike many, I honestly do think McCain is a decent guy. I honestly do think McCain doesn't really want to play this way. BUT - he knows, KNOWS he's gotta go there to have any shot. He cannot convince enough people to vote FOR him. He has to make more people vote AGAINST Obama. What we saw in the middle 1/3 was the worst of both worlds - the pissed McCain... pissed at himself... pissed at the media... pissed at Obama, even for 'making' him do it.
An aside -- I think his "no go on Wright" is basically McCain making a deal with himself, as in "If I don't go there, I haven't gone too far". McCain is a gambler, but not a degenerate gambler. That's what gamblers do -- you figure what you can afford to lose if every roll of the dice goes bad. McCain at this point thinks, if he keeps that Wright chit in his pocket, he can walk out with some dignity.
Actually, the entire 538 "on the road" series is an excellent read. I believe they started in New Mexico, went up through Nevada, moved on to Colorado, etc.
Sean is absolutely comparing the two.
I think that both he and you are also 10000% right. I volunteered on several occasions for both Kerry and several progressive orgs in fall 2004.
Night and day.
One Kerry canvasing event I went to in mid-October 2004, into Wisconsin, the 'leader' was late, we had a real lack of any literature, there was zero help for first-time canvassers, and they didn't even have us RECORD anything! We were basically given street maps, assignments, and sent on our way.
A similar Obama event? Heh... the organizers have been there prepping for a while, there's plenty of lit, they quickly work through the volunteers --- help out those who are first-timers, pair up vets with novices, and you better believe they want every shred of data they can get back on your results....