Big ups to Tom Brokaw for structuring the debate in the same order, with practically the exact same questions, as the first debate a week and a half ago. Thanks for spending 90 minutes providing the same information that Jim Lehrer did. Great work, Tom.
The only things that stood out to me, that weren't practically the same canned responses as last time, were these:
• Obama called health care a right and not a commodity, and brought a moral dimension to the issue that calms my nerves about him on the topic.
• Darfur got mentioned, which was one of the few new ones.
• McCain basically called for a version of a new HOLC, with the government stepping in to buy up failing mortgages and work them out with struggling homeowners. This is completely at odds with his record, and I'd like to see him explain it to fiscal conservatives. Also, why now and not during the bailout negotiations?... late update: the bailout bill already has this option, though it's completely at the discretion of the Treasury Department.
• Fountains of conventional wisdom like Brokaw still think there's a problem with entitlements completely out of proportion to the actual problem. Social Security is not in crisis and Medicare's crisis has directly to do with skyrocketing health care costs and should not be viewed in a vacuum.
• Obama's line on why insurance markets should be deregulated because the credit card industry moved all their businesses to low-regulation states like Delaware was... you know, interesting, considering his Vice Presidential nominee.
• Both candidates remain out to lunch on Afghanistan and were totally non-responsive on the plain fact that our presence there has become toxic. McCain thinks we can do a "surge" there, which turns "surge" into less a tactic than a pretty word, and Obama is slightly better but still needs to recognize that Afghanistan in 2008 is not Afghanistan in 2002.
No changes in the polls from this, as very little new things were revealed.