Under the bright lights on the Hofstra University stage and in split-screen television coverage seen by most viewers at home, McCain looked like the quintessential exasperated older brother who can't believe anyone is taking his kid brother seriously.
There was copious eye-rolling. Frequent and exaggerated wide-eyed "I can't believe what he's saying" looks. And, as the debate progressed, a stiff, look-straight-ahead uncomfortableness that was in marked contrast to Barack Obama's trademark unflappable calm, which last night was modestly spiced with some head shakes and "there he goes again" grins.
I was especially struck by Obama's grin, which seemed to be a nod to the famous line Ronald Reagan used against Jimmy Carter in their 1980 debate. Reagan flashed his trademark charm and humor by deflecting Carter attacks with a bemused, " There you go again."