At the end of tonight’s debate, I gave the edge to John McCain. I thought he was more aggressive, and Barack Obama lacked the same energy he showed in the previous debate.

But instant surveys of independent voters declared Obama the easy winner.

So what have we learned?

One, the traditional rules of debate may not apply. A candidate may “win” the debate by being the aggressor, but it doesn’t matter if he or she alienates the voters who will decide the election.

Two, when the worst economic conditions in 75 years are scaring the hell out of people, they’re not interesting in the negative stuff that has decided the outcomes of other elections.

Three, TV audiences are turned off by McCain’s cranky demeanor. In tough times, voters are seeking leaders who show calm.