I dunno. I thought the same in the first debate but undecided/ uncommitted voters seemed to give Obama a bigger win than I thought. The attacky stuff doesn't go over well. And we're talking about "no-drama Obama" here -- we don't really want him to get too far out of his persona.
Firmness I think he'll do (and I think he did it in the first debate too).
Overall I think that the greater physicality of this debate will benefit Obama. They were standing in the first one but camera angles and such glossed over the difference in stature, for example. They won't be going into each other's space but I still think that the height difference will be more pronounced, as well as just general fluidity, vitality, that sort of thing. (Standard disclaimer -- no, I don't think this is a good basis for how to decide who to vote for and it's not my own basis -- but these things are a factor for many voters.)
In the first debate, a poll by Pew I think found that the second-most-frequently used word to describe McCain (after "experienced") was "old." That's bad for McCain.
I also know that Obama is way way WAY better at town halls than he's ever gotten credit for. I guess that was cemented in the exchanges about whether they'd do 10 town halls in a row over the summer... the fact that it didn't happen was seen as an admission of weakness by Obama, or something. But he's GOOD at them, very good. And McCain is supposed to be the master. So I think that part is very much in Obama's favor.
The format of this debate seems to discourage follow-ups, which is bad. (Lynn Sweet had a post where she thoroughly explains the format, I can try to find that back.)
I think that Obama is going to try to needle McCain in a low-key way, without being outright aggressive. McCain is wound TIGHT and I think there are some hopes that he might be goaded into an explosion. Which would rock.
I don't know what sort of restrictions the audience will have -- if they're still directed to remain quiet, not applaud, etc. The Sweet post/ article said that the camera will be on the audience member when he/she asks the question, but won't show the response (visually.)
Overall it seems like things will be pretty subdued and I think that'll be bad for McCain, too. I think he feeds off the applause and approval in usual townhall settings.
It does seem like the audience might skew center-right, though, because of how they were selected. Uncommitted at this late date, and demographically representative. So that might be bad for Obama.
McCain surely knows the stakes and may well be able to keep everything in check and maybe even show some humor -- this isn't definitely all Obama's, by any means. And of course Obama could still make an unforced error.
Gawd I wish I could watch!!!!!! I hate these late starts. The Friday one was OK, kid could wake up late the next day, but these school-night ones suck. Sigh.