A couple of quick thoughts: No clear winner, but I think Obama helped himself a little more. And if his poll trajectory is, in fact, up and hers is down, that's good enough for him. He didn't have to score big. Clinton came across very well. I don't think she hurt herself, but I'm not sure that she did anything to stop Obama's momentum. We'll see come Tuesday.
I hope this debate satisfies all those who have been complaining that there hasn't been enough policy substance in the debates. I found it riveting, but I doubt it changed many people's minds. If anything it may have favored Obama because he, though he doesn't present himself primarily as a wonk, showed he could more than hold his own in a wonk-off with the Queen of Wonks.
So in the end, it comes down to where people stand on Iraq (Obama's best line:"I want to end the mindset that got us into the war in the first place."), and where people stand on transformational leadership vs. nuts and bolts program pushing. Health care, in my opinion, was a wash between them. It seems to me every body is either automatically covered as in a singlepayer system, or if you have to buy in, you cannot be forced. That's not my idea of "universal," and it comes across as nanny-statish. If single payer with automatic coverage isn't a political possibility, then the most important thing is to control costs and keep premiums affordable and available to anybody who wants insurance regardless of preexisting conditions. Both plans seek to do that, and that's all that matters. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see how forcing people to buy is going to wash politically in a society still so smitten by Libertarian thinking.
On immigration, do Democrats care about driver's licenses vs. no driver's licenses? I don't. Sounds like something Republicans obsess about. It was interesting that Obama was reaching out to the Latinos while Clinton seemed to be throwing the Latinos under the bus in reaching out to blacks. I think that helps Obama more than it helps Clinton, because the black vote has left the dock and is sailing for Obamaland, and it isn't coming back. I think the Latino vote is more volatile, and Hillary hurt herself with the Latinos. I doubt, though, that Ugly Betty will be rescinding her endorsement.
I think Hillary got of a good line about it taking a Clinton to clean up the messes made by Bush, except that it has little relation to reality. Bill did little to pursue Bush 1 culpability in Iran Contra and a host of other shady dealings, especially in the Middle East. And I don't know that Obama will aggressively pursue investigations into Bush 2 era crimes, but we can be relatively certain that Hillary won't, what with Bill and Bush 1 being such buds and all.
I think that Obama helped himself with his humor, and both laugh lines were at Republican expense. I think he came across as serious, gracious, confident, and at ease. I'm sure Clinton supporters feel the same way about their candidate. But at this point it's all about momentum going into next Tuesday, who's got it, and who don't. You've got to give the edge to Obama there. And another thing is clear--Obama is growing as a candidate, because this was his best debate. Clinton was her normal, sure-footed self, but Obama seems like the candidate on the move.
Both these candidates look as though they are in a completely different league than the GOP candidates, but that doesn't mean that's the way America will look at them in November. We know that the Republicans will do everything they can to frighten the politically immature from taking the chance with either of these candidates. They look good now, but enough doubt will be cast on them by one or another kind of swiftboating, and that will churn up the underlying discomfort lying dormant in so many Americans about voting for a woman or a black man. Better to to take the safer course, they will think to themselves, and vote for a Republican again.
That's my fear. I hope it's unfounded or at least that it's not something that will affect a majority of Americans. The last seven years, though, have taught me not ever to underestimate the fear factor. I'd like to believe that Americans have learned their lesson, but I wouldn't bet my house on it. Nevertheless, I'm feeling optimistic at the moment, and for now at least I choose not to think about the specter of Republican thuggery looming on the horizon.