"It doesn't get any better than that if you're a reporter," the CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent and Face the Nation host told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Thursday. "I mean, to be able to sit at that table with those two men at this point in what, to me, has been the most exciting campaign that I've ever covered -- and I've covered quite a few -- it was -- I'll just say it: It was absolutely thrilling to be sitting there, to ... see them in such close proximity. They've never been that close to one another for that period of time, probably in their whole lives. I just thought it was very interesting and I thought we learned a lot about both men."
Schieffer said he didn't think it would be appropriate for him to say who he thought won, since he was the moderator, but, "I thought they both made the points that they came there to make. Barack Obama is ahead. He was very cool. He was very composed. If John McCain was trying to rattle him, he did not do that. He didn't succeed in doing that last night.
"On the other hand, I thought McCain made some points, when he said, 'Look, if you wanted to run against George Bush, you should have run the last time out, not this time. I am not George Bush.
"I think, if John McCain had one message sitting at that table last night, it was to try to convince people that he is not a part of the Bush administration. On the other hand, I think Barack Obama, if he had one objective, it was to convince people that John McCain was part of the party that has presided over the situation we find ourselves in."
Smith said he's "wondering, for John McCain, down double digits now, he probably had the best performance all of all of his performances of these three debates, yet, with as much bad news as there is in the economy, that may be drowning out everything he has to say."
"I think it's drowning out a lot of what both of them are saying," Schieffer responded. "I don't think there's any question about that. And that is the problem for John McCain. ... He has got to find some way to break away. Whether he did that last night or not, we'll find out on Election Day, but I think that's what this election has been about from the very beginning, Harry, and I think that's what in the end will decide it."