London, Sept.27 : British daily ' The Guardian ' has described the first presidential debate between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama as probably the most confusing ever, and believes that it will take at least 72 hours to really assess its impact.
Giving its assessment of the issues taken up during the debate, the paper says that on the issue of the American economy and the current meltdown, McCain did fine on what was ostensibly Obama's terrain.
It felt Obama missed several opportunities in that segment, letting the conversation dwell for too long on earmarks.
It felt that Obama should have shifted the conversation much more quickly and aggressively to the whole host of Bush economic failures ' unemployment, pensions and the rest ' and tied down McCain to them.
However, it praised Obama for coming out of the box and speaking clearly about the bailout, adding that he probably won that exchange.
"But the overall economic conversation did not work to his advantage to the extent it should have, and I think that was the result of some failures on his part to seize the initiative," it said.
On foreign policy, it says Obama landed enough punches to nullify McCain's natural advantage. He was aggressive on Afghanistan, on the question of negotiation with enemies. Positions on Iraq seemed to be a draw, the paper said, adding that McCain's surge argument was good, but Obama was good on McCain's past misjudgments, and polls support Obama's argument here about Iraq being an unnecessary war.
McCain's argument that it isn't about the past isn't quite supported by polling - people still seem to care why we got in there. McCain probably won the Russia conversation.
On the performance of the two candidates, the paper said McCain dominated. He was on the attack. He said there were many things that young Obama "didn't understand." Obama, like a schoolboy, looked to moderator Jim Lehrer for permission to interrupt rather than just interrupting, as McCain did.
And weakest of all, Obama said nine or 10 times that McCain was right or even "absolutely right" about this or that point.
And yet, the TV pundits seem to be saying that maybe Obama's concessions toward McCain worked for Obama!
Chris Matthews thinks McCain erred in never once looking at ' respectfully acknowledging the presence of ' his opponent.
Even Pat Buchanan said that on MSNBC.
A CBS poll of 500 uncommitted voters who watched the debate found this: 40 percent said Obama won, 38 percent said it was a draw, and 22 percent called McCain the winner.
CNN had Obama winning 51-38 percent overall, winning on the economy 58-37 percent, and even winning on Iraq 52-47 percent.