The first presidential debate between John McCain and Barach Obama came and went earlier today (evening in the US) but it will be several days before the impact of the debate, if any, will be clear. On a purely stylistic level the debate was apparently "won" by Obama. As far as I was concerned however, neither candidate appeared interested in seriously engaging in a real discussion on the most pressing topic of the day - the $700 billion bailout of the US financial system. Neither candidate was willing to state their real feelings about the proposed bailout and instead equivocated and obfuscated their way to completely unsatisfactory responses. As Ross Douthat noted in the on-line Atlantic, in the end this election may be about nothing at all; if this is the case, it doesn't matter whether Obama or McCain win at least as far as policy is concerned. The reality may be that the combination of crumbling economy and massive deficits may limit the ability of either candidate to undertake any of their agenda once they are elected.
At any rate, back to the fun part, namely handicapping the state of the presidential race. Polling over the past 48 hours suggests that Obama has opened up a clear lead over McCain in the national popular vote:
This still somewhat narrow popular vote lead translates into a significant vote margin in the Electoral College:
Missouri, Ohio and Virginia, with a combined total of 44 electoral votes, appear to have flipped from McCain to Obama over the past several days. In addition, Florida has now moved into the swing state category:
The electoral map makes clear the spread of blue over the US in recent days:
If my perception is correct that Barack Obama "won" the first debate, the above map could be becoming increasingly blue over the next several days.