Both men look nervous in their opening remarks. The gravity of times are such that cute and pithy just won't do.
Given an initial chance to tear into each other, the two men keep their eyes on Jim Lehrer and try once again to restate their opening statements. My guess is that Obama will relax some when he gets on the ropes - he seems to prefer playing defense.
Lehrer tries again to prompt them into a face-to-face and once again they demur.
No surprise that the debate is starting out with a discussion about the economic crisis. Not only the first but the second question focuses on the issue, as did both the candidates' opening statements.
As McCain gets onto the issue of corruption he starts to gain some traction, repeats his "I'll make them famous" line and lays into Obama for requesting earmarks. How will Obama respond?
Obama moves past the earmarks issue and opens up a line of attack on McCain's tax-cut plan. He uses the opportunity to say he'll cut taxes, too, but for the middle class... and McCain comes back and hits him on earmarks again... he admits Obama will make cut taxes - is this the first time? Obama is also the first to interrupt.
Lehrer again asks McCain to respond directly - it's an awkward conceit to command them to confront each other in some manufactured way. Perhaps Lehrer should notice it's a losing strategy.
Obama made a muddle of the tax loopholes vs. tax cuts for businesses... finally makes it back to clarity in talking about health care tax credits. McCain then breaks in with talk about an energy vote and then moves it back to tax cuts.