The Last Night

Final Fights and Russertism

The press consensus seems to be that last night’s MSNBC debate was the sharpest of the season, but that it wasn’t quite sharp enough to change the game. As ex-ESPNer Keith Oblermann said just after it ended, more field goals than touch downs.

The Washington Post said that “in contrast to their debate five days ago in Texas, Clinton and Obama butted heads from the opening moments”.

The New York Times apparently saw the same show, and said “the exchange had a belligerent edge” compared to last week’s , and that Clinton “was relentless throughout the meeting… She insisted on responding to virtually every point that he made.”

The local Cleveland Plain Dealer saw things differently. It was a “tense” meeting, but in their accounting, “Clinton offered fewer rejoinders than she has in the past debates.”

The Polk Award-winning Talking Points Memo cleverly, if dramatically, headlined their coverage with “There Will Be Was Blood” and wisely drew attention to a big piece of ludicrous Russertism: his persistence in bringing up Obama’s highly tenuous ties (even calling them that is a stretch) to Louis Farrakhan.

Out west, The Los Angeles Times saw things with a bit more nuance:

Leading up to the 90-minute debate, the key question was whether Clinton would assume the more bellicose approach she has favored in recent days, or the more placid style she has offered in recent debates, including last week in Austin.

The answer: a mix of both.

And that, folks, was the 20th and last (scheduled!) debate of the nominating season. Will Pennsylvania have its day?

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.