The 20th and (hopefully) final round of the Democratic debate was tonight in Cleveland, Ohio. [Transcript.] Once again, no real gamechangers to mention, and thus, momentum-wise, Sen. Obama came out on top. (I thought he came out on top anyway, but am willing to concede I’m not the best judge of this sort of thing.) I don’t have a lot to add at this point: We always seem to cover the same basic issues in these debates, and Obama was Obama, Clinton was Clinton, and (sigh) Russert was Russert. Rinse and repeat.
That being said, I do think Sen. Clinton’s campaign would have been better served by having last Thursday’s debate performance tonight, even if some people construed her closing as a valedictory. Perhaps it plays better to undecideds looking for a fighter above all else, but I thought this was perhaps Clinton’s weakest debate performance since last October, when she tied herself in knots over drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. Two particularly cringeworthy moments: 1) Sen. Clinton’s whining about the question order, which drew boos from the crowd and seemed remarkably petty, and 2) Sen. Clinton trying to tar Obama as weak on Farrakhan, and — thanks to Obama drawing attention to her parsing — ending up looking ridiculous. (FWIW, Sen. Obama addressed Farrakan in depth the other day during a Q&A with Jewish-community leaders.) But even notwithstanding those obvious moments, Sen. Clinton just kept trying to press the offense tonight in rather tone-deaf and unpresidential fashion. See also the 16-minute health care hijacking at the start of the debate, where Obama more than held his own. (As well he should — we’ve only gone through this, lo, twenty times or so now.)
At any rate, from this admittedly biased corner Sen. Obama seemed magnanimous and presidential, while Sen. Clinton seemed desperate and petulant. But, from any corner, it’s hard to envision this debate performance resulting in the twenty-point margins Clinton needs in both Ohio and Texas to stay viable. Now is by no means the time for we Obama supporters to take our collective foot off the gas: Keep volunteering, phonebanking, donating, and above all voting. Nevertheless, allowing some latitude to keep the karma gods happy, we’re in garbage time, folks.