Heading into the final push in Pennsylvania this weekend, before the state's Tuesday primary, the Democratic presidential candidates met once again Thursday night.
It was a less conventional setting, but individual appearances on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report" by both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama proved the contenders know the value of a few late-night laughs at a crucial point in the campaign.
Obama spent Thursday eager to move beyond ABC's Wednesday night debate.
At a town hall event in Raleigh, N.C., Obama literally tried to brush the whole thing off.
"She was taking every opportunity to get a dig in there, that's her right to kind of twist the knife a little bit," Obama said before reiterating a point he made during the debate.
"That's how our politics has been taught to be played. That's the lesson that she learned when the Republicans were doing that same thing to her back in the 1990s, so I understand it, and when you're running for the presidency then you've got to expect it."
Clinton barely mentioned the debate Thursday, but gave a Friday interview to a Philadelphia affiliate station where she criticized Obama for "complaining" about the debate.
"I know he spent all day yesterday complaining about the hard questions he was asked. Being asked tough questions in a debate is nothing like the pressures you face inside the White House," Clinton said.
Clinton's surrogates spent their time on trail Thursday keeping memory of her debate performance alive and taking swipes at her Democratic rival.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell likened Clinton to boxer Rocky Balboa, calling her "our own 'Rocky,' someone who is going to make a great president. Somebody who is going to change the American lexicon."
Rendell said that he and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter had agreed to let Clinton use the Rocky theme song "after the decisive knockout that she scored last night."
Clinton's number-one surrogate suggested Obama was a whiner.
"When I watched that debate last night, I got kinda tickled," former President Bill Clinton said at an American Legion Hall event in St. Mary's, Pa. "After the [debate], her opponent's, oh, the people working were saying, 'Oh this is so negative, why are they doing this.' Well they've been beatin' up on her for 15 months. I didn't hear her whining when he said she was untruthful in Iowa or called her the senator from Punjab.
"And, you know, they said some pretty rough things about me, too. But you know, this is a contact sport. If you don't want to play, keep your uniform off," Clinton told a loudly cheering crowd.
The debate left strong impressions on viewers as well: a comment thread of 19,000+ messages built up on the ABCNEWS.com debate recap. The comments ran the gamut of post-debate opinions, with some expressing anger over the line of questioning and others suggesting the debate was good preparation for both Democrats come the general election in November.
In Narberth, Pennsylvania resident Bill Adair said it was a "good idea to test them on questions like that but it didn't push the conversation along about policy at all."
"It was almost 45 minutes to an hour before we got a policy question," said Adair, a Clinton supporter as a result of the debate. "I felt [once] we did Hillary was a slam dunk. I think she sounded confident, smart, prepared, really ready."