I didn' think either candidate was particularly sharp in terms of coherence and delivery. In the interest of feigning objectivity I will refrain from pronouncing a winner. For what it's worth, here are my gut-level observations as the debate progressed.
First 10 minutes: Neither of these guys sounds sharp. Is there any way to vote for Palin-Biden in 2008?
Next 20 minutes: The discussion seems to be taking place on McCain's turf; Obama looks defensive. I'm mixed on whether Obama's choice to use first names is effective contrasted with McCain's more formal use of "Senator Obama." Maybe "Barack" would have seemed dismissive.
Oops: If you're going to use first names, get it right: John, not Jim.
The age thing: When McCain made reference to Alexander the Great, I was afraid we were going to get: "Sen. Obama, I knew Alexander the Great, and you're no Alexander the Great."
Locking in voting blocs: Obama has the early childhood education crowd locked up -- too bad four-year-olds don't vote. McCain has veterans in the bag, as well as the Guantanamo vote (and all other terrorists who might be apprehensive about tough questioning while in custody).
Strong closings, but I think McCain's was stronger: "I know how to heal the wounds of war, I know how to deal with our adversaries, and I know how to deal with our friends." I'm sure a helpful reader will post one of Obama's stronger moments -- I don't have one handy.
FYI, here's a complete transcript of the first debate.