Commenting on my post, in which I asserted McCain won on foreign policy but nobody cares very much, one of my friends (RB) came away seeing McCain as rigid:

"McCain looked every bit the over-zealous Bomb, Bomb, Bomb,...Bomb, Bomb, Iran candidate with his stiff body language and his even stiffer rhetoric that allows no flexibility for a political world that is far different than the one that McCain grew up in."

BTW, kudos to Obama for inserting McCain's "lighthearted" Dr. Strangelove moment into the debate. It was the only time McCain actually winced. It is obviously an exceedingly embarrassing incident, which Team McCain would rather forget. After last night, not bloody likely. The old clip received a new life in the post-debate coverage.

RB also agreed with me (and the conventional wisdom) "that foreign policy was supposed to be McCain's territory, but it came across as more of a draw...that's not good enough for McCain who has to land knockout punches to overcome...his voting record over the last eight years."

While I actually agreed in large part with RB's analysis in re style, our differences in re substance speak to the human propensity to see these things depending on our predispositions.

Nothing that might have happened in the debate last night was likely to change my opinion or that of RB.

Who were they talking to?

What is the import of these productions?

The big TV debates are meaningful in changing people's minds in two ways:

1. for the very small number of actual voters who are so un-interested in politics that they have not formed an opinion yet, but for some reason tuned in on a Friday night, the TV duel might have made an impact (did I mention this is a very small number).

2. much more important is the buzz (non viewers who will hear who won). This is why whoever wins the spin really won this debate. Right now RB's analysis is emerging as the consensus (another reason why McCain had little advantage in showing up to the debate--although he had no better option).

Without the knockout, or knockdown, or even a stagger--nothing changed. Obama went into the round ahead on points, and he emerged from the round still ahead on points, and he is now one round closer to the conclusion of the contest.

It was a good night for Obama.

See also Tocqueville's addition of Quin Hilyer's take, which also asserts that McCain lost in the perception wars.