WASHINGTON, September 27, 2008 (AFP) – Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain landed a knockout blow in their first presidential debate late Friday, but the youthful Democrat may have just scored a points victory by standing his own.
Each campaign trumpeted favorable reviews from the instant punditry of television talking heads as Republican McCain played his strong suit of national security and Democrat Obama hammered his theme of the economy.
But independent analysts said that on balance, Obama may have nosed ahead by crossing the most important threshold for voters only just tuning in to the marathon campaign — looking presidential.
Indiana University political scientist Marjorie Hershey was reminded of the 1980 election between an enfeebled Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, and his less experienced Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan.
“A lot of Americans in 1980 were very tired of the Carter administration but did not know Ronald Reagan well enough to feel confident that he could take over as president,” she told AFP.
“By his debate performance, a lot of viewers apparently felt persuaded that Reagan was sufficiently presidential that he could function at that level.
“My suspicion is that that may