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9.46 pm. Obama, if I heard him right, just took on Hollywood in the belly of the beast.

9.40 pm. "Right on Day One." Bulls-eye. He's pulling ahead, it seems to me.

9.30 pm. Clinton says that a Democratic president will need "gravitas" to win the argument on Iraq. But the strange effect of this one-on-one debate is actually to elevate him to a level of authority that Clinton's long career in the public eye has bestowed on her. Gravitas? He's got it. Judgment? The record on Iraq speaks for itself.

9.24 pm. Objectively, Obama wiped the floor with her. And throughout this debate, he keeps bringing up McCain, advertising his own ability to tackle him. Particularly acute in speaking of "clarity" and in being a Democrat least vulnerable in withdrawing troops from Iraq. This was the clearest policy difference and Obama made the most of it.

9.15 pm. She says that everyone should be judged on their own merits and then launches into a recitation of the achievements of her husband's previous administration and then claims that it takes a Clinton to clean up after a Bush. Awful answer. But what answer can she give? She has plenty of talent to make it on her own, but she chose to gain power with the assistance of nepotism. And she wants it every which way again. Ugh.

9.13 pm. Oddly, the civility seems to be working for Obama - and he certainly doesn't seem to feel he needs to knock Clinton off a front-runner porch. They're both acting as if they are in the lead.

9.10 pm. Clinton just played the gender card front and center, as an argument for "change". She keeps having it every which way on identity politics. Which is to say: she'll say anything that works to her advantage from moment to moment. Worth knowing. Obama has more restraint. (And did she really feel the need to cite Kerry, Bobby and Kathleen?)

9.08 pm. Obama on Romney: funny and brutal. He's good on offense. The JFK analogy works because he really does have some wit.

9.04 pm. On the "Ready On Day One" question, Obama's response was sharp, even funny. She bored on about herself. But maybe I'm a hopeless audience for her. She just seems smug to me.

8.55 pm. "For so many years I have stood with farm-workers." Oy. Clinton looks as if she realizes she lost ground with Hispanics in the immigration first round. A reader emails:

She sounds like she's running for HHS secretary, not president.

That's about right. Obama begins to seem like the authoritative figure here. Calmer. Clearer.

8.45 pm. Interesting exchange on immigration. Obama defends illegal immigrants and says they are scapegoated. Clinton is more circumspect. Probably not a good idea to say that she opposes mass deportation as not "practical." This round goes to Obama - because he's not in a defensive crouch on the issue.

8.40 pm. Nice Obama push-back on the tax-and-spend critique. And a sign that he can widen the wedge between McCain's past record against Bush's tax cuts and McCain's current position. Clinton will never be able to exploit internal Republican divisions. Because the prospect of a third Clinton term immediately abolishes them.

8.35 pm. It's a pretty even debate. Which helps the Clintons. Obama is much better in a set speech. Her command of policy detail comes through. And, so far, she hasn't been too grating.

8.30 pm. They are not disabusing me of the notion that discussing the details of healthcare policy is really boring.

8.22 pm. A nice touch from Obama in accepting Clinton's description of their policy differences and challenging her on those grounds. On healthcare, I prefer Obama's less invasive approach. But then I prefer the Republicans' even less invasive approach.

8.20 pm. The Clintons' message: we can solve your problems. Forget the highfalutin rhetoric. We can actually do it.

8.14 pm. Pitch-perfect, statesmanlike opener from Obama. Nice points against identity politics.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty.)

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