The general feeling on the right side of the blogosphere is that this was McCain’s best debate and he did himself a lot of good. I think people on the Right were so relieved that the debate finally turned to matters of ideological and partisan moment — abortion, ACORN, Ayers, trade, spending — that, perhaps for the first time in his political career, they graded him on a curve. The problem, in my view, is that the shorthand in which McCain spoke about these matters made them comprehensible only to those of us who are already schooled in them. In almost every case, Obama answered McCain’s shorthand with longhand — with detailed, even long-winded answers that gave the distinct impression he was more in command of the details of these charges than the man who was trying to go after him on them.
We’re not the audience for these debates. Undecided voters are, and undecided voters are, or so studies tell us, often astonishingly ill-informed. You can only bring up new issues if you’re able pithily to explain the context and meaning of them. It is not a rap on McCain to say he’s not good at it; he doesn’t want to bother with the introduction. But in a setting like that, the introduction is what matters, far more than the attack.