While there's no doubt that ABC's Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos seemed to be auditioning for jobs as TMZ-like Spanish inquisitors, spending almost the entire first hour of the Dem debate tag-teaming questions about almost all of the scandals du jour (Wright, Ayers, Bosnia, Bittergate, the flag pin flap etc.) instead of focusing on policy issues, there's no denying that Barack Obama lost tonite.
His "hope" and "change" message seemed to have been left in his wallet in another pair of pants. Under fire from all three fronts, he struggled to fight back and did so at times using the same kind of "old politics" that he so decries ie. attack with nasty talking points when you're attacked. That style of campaigning has increased during this Pennsylvania stint of his run as he tries to look like the counter to Clinton's Rocky.
During the debate, he simply look befuddled, washed out, defeated, frustrated, and flustered while Clinton's message was that she was the one capable of standing up to the viciousness coming down the pike from the Republicans. And, like her or not, (and I don't like either of them), she does have a point.
I suspect Obama will get some sympathy votes from people who thought the moderators gave him too hard a time. On the other hand, to voters who've only heard his "hope" blurbs and haven't really taken the time to follow the campaign yet (yes, those people do exist), I can imagine some confusion after tonite's performance because he came across as an almost entirely different person.
Although Obama has become a Teflon™-Man of sorts and has been the media's darling, when huge fans of his like Andrew Sullivan write that "He failed tonight in a big way", you know this was a really bad showing.
I'll have more on the actual substance, such as it was, tomorrow...