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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 26, 2008 11:11 PM

I’m giving it to McCain — and you know I’m a tough grader on him.

He was slow out of the gate — a broken record on earmarks and spending — but Obama failed to turn the bailout debacle against him. McCain hit his stride in the second half, schooling Obama on counterinsurgency, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Russia.

McCain made no major soundbite-able gaffes. It was more a matter of a few missed opportunities for McCain than the commission of any major errors. Major omission of the night from McCain: Did he say a single word in defense of conservative principles and free-market economics?

Obama, on the other hand, committed several gaffes:

1) I have a bracelet, too! Uhhhh, but give me a second because I can’t remember the name on it.

2) Using Joe Biden as his human shield.

3) Using that “John is absolutely right” phrase…already a McCain ad, of course.

4) And answering the question about preventing another 9/11 by babbling about “respect” and “restoring standing.”

***

Reader Ken e-mails:

Michelle, the biggest problem I see with McCain’s performance is that he failed to come to the defense of Reagan-Goldwater conservative principles – especially market economics. He failed to slap Obama down for his ignorance on supply-side theory. He failed to point out that the tax cuts he wants will increase revenue to the treasury, and then cite JFK as proof.

The biggest question, though, lies not with McCain or Obama, but the media. Obama spun a lot of tall stories, but we’ll never hear about them. After all, if Obama lies and the media doesn’t cover it, did he really lie?

Several readers also complained about a stylistic point: They were annoyed by McCain’s refusal to look directly at Obama. They thought the lack of eye contact looked bad. Your thoughts?

***

What did you think?

Who won the first presidential debate?
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