Who Took the Democratic Debate? It’s a Matter for … Debate

Democratic debate
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Watching the twentieth Democratic debate last night was kind of like watching a rerun of Seinfeld for the twentieth time: There were some entertaining moments, but for the most part, you knew exactly what to expect. Moderator Tim Russert gave us a couple of fresh angles asking about Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement of Barack Obama and the candidates’ familiarity with Russia’s “successor” to Vladimir Putin. Clinton and Obama are supposedly all about “change,” but in terms of the dynamics of the race, little of it seems to have come about in Cleveland last night. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: It made for another one of those close contests the experts make so much hay out of.

• Andrew Sullivan gives an easy win to Obama, though he doesn’t think his rejection/denunciation of Louis Farrakhan went far enough. [Daily Dish/Atlantic]

• Joe Klein says Obama was calm and in control throughout the debate, though Klein agrees with Clinton on health care and thinks Obama should have rejected Farrakhan outright. [Swampland/Time]

• Noam Scheiber writes that Clinton never flummoxed Obama, and that Obama only looked bad once, on the question about Putin’s successor. [Stump/New Republic]

• Chris Cillizza calls it a draw even though Clinton “dominated” much of the debate. [Fix/WP]

• Stephen Spruiell thinks Obama’s ability to rise above tedious political traps, for example the “reject versus denounce” Farrakhan exchange, is what won him the debate and what makes him a formidable challenger in general. [Corner/National Review]

• Jim Geraghty goes out on a limb and gives a straight victory to Clinton, who demonstrated that she’s a “fighter.” [Campaign Spot/National Review]

• Kevin Drum believes the candidates are too skilled for either to land a “knockout blow” in the debates but gives the win to Obama. [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Mark Ambinder gives substance points to Clinton and style points to Obama, though he concedes the debate probably won’t affect anything. [Atlantic]

• Mark Halperin gives Obama a B+ and Clinton a B-. [The Page/Time]

• Ari Berman writes that the tie tips to the front-runner Obama, while the biggest loser was Tim Russert for his “gotcha” questions. [Nation]

• Mary Katharine Ham credits Clinton for her substance but points out that Obama was more likable and had the audience laughing with him and at Clinton. [Town Hall]

• Mike Madden says Obama mistakes were hard to come by and thinks Clinton’s complaint about moderator bias made her look like a whiny grouch, even if she was later somewhat vindicated. [Salon]

• Andrew Romano calls it a tie, giving the voters of Ohio and Texas the win for profiting from such a good debate. [Stumper/Newsweek] —Dan Amira

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For a complete guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.