09/30/2008 - After the 90-minute Sept. 26 candidate debate moderated by PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, the initial media verdict was decided mixed, and generally cautious.
Over on NBC, Tom Brokaw seemed to award the encounter to McCain based on his more aggressive posture. "John McCain bored in [on] Barack Obama," Brokaw said, while expressing the view that the Democrat had failed to exploit certain openings. "I'm surprised he didn't work harder at pinning McCain...to the Bush administration," he added.
John Dickerson, of the online publication Slate, suggested that Obama had essentially won by holding his own. "Obama and McCain looked like equals onstage," he declared. "He was firm in his beliefs and clear in his views on foreign policy."
During the CBS post-mortem, Bob Schieffer seemed to speak for many media observers when he noted that both sides had their moments and that no one really dominated. "There was no knockout," he declared.
The next morning, front pages all over America adopted some of that boxing lingo with headlines that seemed almost wistful that the candidates hadn't bloodied each other more and the outcome had not been more clear cut.
Read the full commentary Assessing the Debate: A Media/Public Disconnect? on the Pew Research Center Web site.