3:30 p.m. ET: We won't know for a few days how last night's debate affects the polling in the presidential race. We do know that, at this moment, Barack Obama seems to be ahead. But by how much?
With so many different surveys out there -- all with different sample sizes, methodologies and funny acronyms -- it can be tough to figure out what's a trend and what's a blip. On one hand, Gallup's tracking poll now has Obama up 11 points, his biggest lead over John McCain in the entire campaign. On the other hand(s), four other major tracking surveys, for Rasmussen, GW/Battleground, Reuters and Hotline, put Obama's current lead at 6, 4, 2, and 1 point(s) respectively.
More intriguingly, all four of those closer tracking surveys showed Obama's lead shrinking from the day before. With the exception of a few phone calls made last night, all of the polls came before the Nashville debate. So is it possible that McCain is actually on the upswing, and that just hasn't penetrated the media's consciousness yet?
Here's one theory: Maybe Obama has already hit his "ceiling." Maybe he's already persuaded all of the voters he's possibly going to persuade, so his polls have nowhere to go but down. This doesn't mean Obama's not still the favorite, only that his numbers won't keep rising inexorably to 60 percent and beyond. Or perhaps the Gallup poll is right and all the others are wrong. Less than four weeks to go until we can know for sure.
12 p.m. ET: Astute observers of last night's debate may have noticed that John McCain immediately began scribbling down notes at the start of the session and took up the pen again multiple times. What was he writing? Here are a few possibilities:
1) "Remember to say 'my friends' repeatedly, rather than 'my enemies' or 'comrades.'"
2) "Should I call Obama 'that one'? How about 'the other guy' or 'that joker over there'? Or should I just jerk my chin in his direction?"
3) "Why is it again that I'm supposed to love town halls?"
4) "Keep saying Obama voted to raise taxes 94 times. Will drive the fact-checkers CRAZY. Heh."
5) "Should I use the 'Ms. Congeniality' line again? It killed at Ole Miss."
Hazard your own guesses in the comments section below. Extra credit to anyone who gets ahold of his actual notes and sends them along.
8 a.m. ET: A "game changer," it was not. The first reviews are in for the Nashville town hall debate that wasn't really much of a town hall. Drudge, at this hour, is succinct: "BORING." Others are only marginally more specific, offering some variation on "it was a tie, so Obama won."
Still other debate-watchers believe Obama really did win, and not just because he was already ahead and didn't blow it, etc. As in the first debate, the snap polls also gave the night to the Democrat: CBS had Obama winning, 40-26, while CNN had it at 54-30.
McCain gets less love this morning, though a few specific moments from the face-off -- especially "that one" -- are getting attention. And his new proposal for the government to buy up distressed mortgages also gets some play (though it may not be all that new), as the McCain campaign clearly wanted this plan to be the major news coming out of the night.
But it may be just McCain's luck that other financial news is crowding out attention for his plan this morning: The markets are doing that crazy thing they do again. Global stocks started way down this morning, but are now rebounding with word that the Fed has cut interest rates. MIght this move lead to a rebound on Wall Street? And can the Fed do anything to help McCain? He could use a rally himself.
October 8, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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