Everybody Loves a Good Bad Debate

If you decided to watch the Democratic presidential debate last night instead of American Gladiators, you made the right choice. The brutal (and hilarious) squabbling between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was just as entertaining, if not more, as watching an overmuscled guy in spandex use a pillow stick to beat the living hell out of a civilian. "Senator Obama, it's hard to have a straight-up debate with you because you never take responsibility for any vote," snapped Hillary at one point, to boos. Obama, referencing the attacks on him by former president Bill Clinton, shot back, "I can't tell who I'm running against at times!" Snap! But unlike on Gladiators, there was no clear winner in the debates. Below, a roundup of speculation and analysis on who came out on top and who couldn't get past the "The Eliminator":

• Everyone lost a little bit by reducing themselves to familylike squabbling. "Any good psychologist would recognize the three classic defense mechanisms on display," explains Richard Wolffe. "Denial, repression and suppression." [Newsweek]

• Obama may have taken a big hit in succumbing to the early bickering with Clinton. "I don't see how Obama wins the nomination if voters can throw up their hands and dismiss them both as typical pols," writes Noam Scheiber. [New Republic]
• Errol Louis argues that there was a winner, and that was the Republican party, "which gleefully blasted out e-mails to the press amplifying every hard shot the candidates took." [NYDN]
• But there's a possibility that poor, sidelined Edwards actually won, purely by virtue of pointing out that Obama and Hillary's squabbling was a deviation from the important issues. [Nation]
• John Podhoretz echoed what many people have said, which was that Hillary Clinton looked frosty and unlikable. He gleefully compared her to a "Disney villainess." [Commentary]

Obama and Clinton Tangle at Debate [NYT]