Unlike debates conducted entirely on radio, televised debates reveal more than just policies and issues. They provide insight into temperament. Body language becomes an important ingredient as it often shows true sentiments and the capacity to deal with controversy or adversity by the participants.
If John McCain was undoubtedly competitive on content, he clearly lost — and lost badly — when it comes to body language and tone. Throughout the debate, the Republican seemed on the verge of losing his temper at any moment. Obama, by contrast, appeared cool and collected. He was reassuring even if he lacked some passion.
McCain needed a game changer. He needed to show stature and best his opponent on content. He had to counteract the perception that he is erratic and temperamental. He failed to do so. It was not a bad performance on substance, but he failed on style and was unable to undo some of the negative perceptions that have arisen in this campaign.
Obama had a solid, though not spectacular, performance as he has had throughout the three debates. McCain, on the other hand, has been uneven throughout the three debates. Obama did not hurt himself in this debate while McCain failed to improve his situation in the campaign. As a result, Obama wins.