I just saw CBN's David Brody proclaim McCain the winner of tonight's joint appearance at Saddleback Church, saying (essentially) that McCain hit it out of the park. I didn't think McCain did as well as Brody did--a lot of his answers sounded pretty stilted and canned, like obviously recycled stump shtick. But, even if you did think McCain was objectively better than Obama, that's the wrong way to think about winners and losers in a forum like this. You've got to grade on the curve.

The audience, after all, was primarily evangelical Christians--a group among whom McCain leads by better than 2 to 1, according to recent polls. That means that if McCain did any worse than twice as well as Obama, it counts as a win for Obama. And, from where I sit, McCain didn't come close to doing twice as well. My sense is that Obama struck a lot of previously skeptical evangelicals as a reasonable and God-fearing man (a real achievement given that so many of the questions touched on issues that favor Republicans among these voters--abortion, judges, stem cell research, etc.). That's a big improvement in light of where Obama started. 

Advantage Obama.

--Noam Scheiber