Obama won the first debate, and I don't think I am just being partisan.
Per my post below on John McCain's misunderstanding of a tactic vs a strategy, Obama came into the debate following his campaign strategy that he has been following since day one. Stay calm, talk directly to people, and follow is main points that have been honed by 18 months of nearly daily campaigning against serious opponents. He has faltered when his message get muddled, he does well when he can shine through. Last night he shone through and was right on track. While that does not produce a Reagan style nock-out, it neutralizes John McCain while steadily firming up support for himself.
McCain's campaign has been looking only at tactics. How can we win today's news cycle. How can we get people talking. That's why he kept throwing in random and snarky campaign slogans and trinkets ('at least I don't have a presidential seal already') and pushed the line "you don't understand" over and over. He needed to hammer Obama, win the debate, get things going, and then win the election. And he was angry, and never looked Obama in the eye. For people who already dislike Obama this is great, but they were voting for McCain anyway. But the people who matter at this point, the 10-20% who are undecided or soft-supporters, genuinely like both candidates and want to see fair treatment from both of them - which only Obama delivered. Finally, McCain's dismissive tone acts to harden up Democratic support of Obama, something no one else has been able to acomplish since this summer!
Even if I am wrong and popular opinion calls debate a draw, Obama still wins. He is up in the polls, there are only 2 debates left (plus the VP debate) to change peoples minds. Obama shows no sign of fatigue, while the McCain campaign is in chaos. The question is, was McCain's proformance enough to at least stop the bleeding? Or will his numbers continue to drop?