I'm going to be a little more methodical in this liveblog. Less moment-by-moment reactions, more general thoughts on larger themes.
6:06: They're seated and both look relaxed. This format will likely make both more appealing. McCain is working very hard to look relaxed and human. He's been instructed to look at Obama, and he's trying that. He's not looking into the camera, as Obama does. These are stagecraft issues, and it looks like McCain has finally caught up on taking it seriously. After ten minutes, McCain is slipping back into contempt.
6:10: Joe the Plumber. This is the new everyman (your days are done, Joe Sixpack). Wow, did Joe get some serious face time. If he doesn't have a reality show by Spring, he missed a hell of an opportunity.
6:18: The thing that Obama recognizes is that debates aren't about scoring points. He doesn't care at all about getting McCain's goat. He is not going to squabble, he's going to stay presidential and serious. McCain, constantly smirking and trying to score points, looks like a guy who's sparring in a locker room. It's death among women voters. It's a dog-whistle among male Republicans, who eat it up. Guess who will decide the election?
6:27 - 6:40: Schieffer asks the question about the nastiness, and McCain goes into this long spiel about he's the victim. All of that played immediately into Obama's hand because he could redirect them and talk about the poison of campaigns. Obama looks presidential. In his rebuttal, McCain went into an aggrieved rant that was built on lies or grossly misplaced pique. It's one of the most amazing sections in a debate I've ever seen. We're into territory we've never seen before. As the exchange continues, McCain repeats the Ayers and ACORN accusations with great pique. It's bizarre. Obama doesn't exactly know what to do with it because he is coming off like a lunatic. (Obama dispensed with the ACORN and Ayers stuff brilliantly.) I'll try to get the video.
6:55: McCain is boiling with rage. He's firing out random talking points--most of which are lies--with a seething hiss. I've never really seen anything like this. It unravels on him the second Obama has a chance to respond, because he is calm, engaged, and sane. He rebuts McCain easily (insane rantings being easy to rebut), which ... enrages McCain more.
7:15: McCain needed to come in with a gameplan. His task was simple: reverse the image that he's unhinged and erratic, and offer a coherent plan for change that would compete with Obama's and credibly give swing voters a reason to view him as the change candidate. He is doing the opposite in this debate. He's chaotic, confused, angry, and he has no plan whatsoever, just a series of talking points that will appeal only to the fringe right. I don't see a single thing that he did right on the points, and the overall effect is much more devasting. Energy: drill. Abortion: demonize pro-choice voters and ridicule Obama. Etc. It's a doomed strategy.
Final analysis: it was an incredibly interesting debate if you were an Obama fan. (Apparently also if you were a McCain fan.) Obama killed McCain.