What happened
Focus groups for NBC, CBS, and Fox said Barack Obama won the second presidential debate, and instant polls of undecided voters also found that a majority saw Obama as a “clear winner” over John McCain. (The Huffington Post)

What the commentators said
Obama didn’t just win, said Jonathan Chait in The New Republic online. He “crushed McCain” on tax cuts for the rich, budgetary priorities, and health care. Time after time, Obama showed that he understands what real Americans are going through and “explained how his proposals would relate to them.”

McCain had a very strong debate, said Stephen F. Hayes in The Weekly Standard. “It’s too bad for him that it came on a night when Barack Obama was nearly flawless.” Obama’s test in the debates has been to show that he “could” and “should” be president, and the polls over the next few days will probably suggest “he passed that test.”

On substance, “the debate was fairly even,” said Paul Mirengoff in Power Line. McCain did better on economics than usual. But “Obama won the ‘visuals,’” because he looked younger and more vigorous,” so the night was “a win for Obama” that puts him “a little closer to the presidency.”

Obama was probably happier with the outcome, said Dan McLaughlin in RedState, but why wouldn’t he be, with his recent surge in the polls? But McCain “was much more able to throw Obama on the defensive.” If it weren’t for the sense that McCain needed to “slaughter” Obama to catch up, we’d all be calling this a win for McCain.