The post-debate punditry pile-on is almost all favoring Hillary Clinton.
After appearing dazed and confused under an onslaught of attacks during the Democratic presidential debate on Oct. 30 in Philadelphia, the front-runner in the national polls was much sharper Thursday night in Las Vegas. She followed the age-old strategy of the best defense is a good offense, going after John Edwards and Barack Obama on healthcare and accusing Edwards of mudslinging.
Clinton also benefited from a friendly audience, which wildly applauded when she talked about trying to become the first woman elected president -- and booed Edwards and Obama when they criticized her.
Clinton's campaign certainly believes she bested her rivals. It has already posted videos of her debate highlights on its website.
To review, let's go back to the debate scorecard from our preview:
- How many times does Clinton start her answers with "Yes" or "No?"
Quite a few. And on the question that flummoxed her in Philly -- driver's licenses for illegal immigrants -- she had a one-word answer. "No."
- Will Clinton try to turn the tables on Edwards and Obama?
Yes, she charged Edwards with playing out of the Republican playbook -- one of the worst accusations you can hurl at a fellow Democrat. She also called him a Johnny-come-lately to universal healthcare, and said that Obama's plan would leave 15 million Americans out in the cold.
- Will Obama jab Clinton, or let Edwards do the dirty work?
Obama leveled his own attacks, especially on what he called Clinton's evasions on how to fix Social Security.
- Will Bill Richardson leap to Clinton's defense again, building speculation that he's angling for a Cabinet post?
Yes, he did. He admonished Edwards for class warfare and Obama for generational warfare and implored, "Give peace a chance."
- Will Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Dennis Kucinich get much air time at all?
For the first part of the debate, it seemed like they would never get a word in edgewise. It became a running joke for a while, until moderator Wolf Blitzer made sure that all the candidates had a chance to answer questions.
- Will the Democrats instead aim mostly at President Bush and the Republican candidates?
Clinton, in particular, criticized Bush, accusing him of a laundry list of transgressions. But Obama, at one point, accused Clinton of sounding like Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney.
- And how many times will Blitzer shill CNN as "the best political team" on television."
If the tally includes on-screen promos, frankly we lost count.
The debate's aftermath raises another series of questions:
- How soon will Clinton's rebound be reflected in the polls? Her support dipped after the last debate, so you might expect the opposite to happen this time.
- Will Obama ever figure out to bring the same passion that he shows in speeches -- the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Iowa last Saturday night the prime example -- to debates?
- And where do you buy asbestos pantsuits anyway?