McCain redeemed his dismal performance in the 2nd debate. This format was far better than the town hall format. Bob Schieffer did a good job with questions and moderating.
Obama always falls back on "make sure." More government is always a good thing as long as we "make sure" that government doesn't do the stupid things that it has a proven track record of doing. Obama is always for and against everything. He's against a litmus test for Supremes, but he wants to "make sure" that we have judges that are tuned in the zeitgeist. Obama is in favor of free trade, but he wants to "make sure" that free trade doesn't result in outcomes (e.g., we sell the Koreans fewer cars than they sell to us) that are unpleasant.
Obama dismisses earmarks because they are only a puny percent of total spending. He ignores the deeper principle which McCain tries to focus on: government spending is wasteful. Obama rejects a spending freeze because this might hurt special interest groups like autistic children.
McCain tried hard to paint Obama as a big spending and tax raising liberal, but Reagan could have done a much better job. If McCain loses this election, it's his own fault. McCain scored points with his real-world example of how Obama wants to spread Joe the plumber's wealth. But why didn't McCain point out that the top 5% of income workers already pay 60% of income taxes? How can raising taxes on them be a fair thing to do? Why did he let Obama get away with claiming that he will cut taxes on 95% of the people when all he will do is give them refundable tax credits which will reward those that work the least with the most? Why didn't McCain clarify that he won't raise taxes on anyone, whereas Obama will?
McCain won the education debate (choice, competition, vouchers, Charter Schools!), and it looked like Obama hated that he was beholden to the teachers' unions.
On balance, I think McCain picked up some votes, but I'm not sure he picked up enough.