The Note: Hair-raiser

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Politico's Roger Simon called it a victory for Edwards: "John Edwards has found a theme: He is angry and he is on your side. He is bold and he will use his boldness for you." Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times saw Clinton display "calm confidence" -- and luck out in that "the gang never ganged up on her." Obama succeeded in showing what makes him different, Sweet writes: "A core underpinning of Obama's presidential bid is the belief that solutions to problems -- domestic and international -- can be found through a search for common ground and consensus."

Leave it to Clinton to sum up the night -- albeit unintentionally. "I believe that there isn't much doubt in anyone's mind that I can be taken seriously," she said. As ABC's Jake Tapper put it on "Good Morning America": "Indeed, Clinton is taken so seriously, the other Democrats went after her."

The biggest winner? The format -- and here's guessing that presidential debates will never be quite the same, even if last night marks the first and last appearance of the talking snowman and the scary guy who calls his assault rifle his "baby." "It was a bad night for news anchors and Washington bureau chiefs, the traditional interrogators of would-be holders of American high office," writes Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

"Most of the video questions posed in last night's Democratic debate were more memorable than the answers, proving that novices can ask good questions, but not necessarily elicit better answers than professional journalists," Alessandra Stanley writes in The New York Times.

Also in the news:

The story most likely to dominate the next series of debates: American military commanders in Iraq have "prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years," The New York Times' Michael R. Gordon reports. "The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008."

Forget hunting down insurgents: Where will President Bush find the political support to make a maintain a major troop presence in Iraq into 2009? "An overwhelming 78 percent of Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say Bush is not willing enough to change his stance on the war, up from 66 percent last December," ABC polling director Gary Langer writes. "The biggest movement is among Republicans; 55 percent say the president is not willing enough to alter his Iraq polices, up 16 points." The public wants Congress to take over the war, and Bush's disapproval rating is now 65 percent -- second only to Richard Nixon in the summer in 1974.

The day's biggest Republican political development came courtesy of former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., who has new radio ads running in Iowa and New Hampshire that are interesting for two reasons: They're running in Iowa and New Hampshire, and they don't mention 9/11. "The trio of ads are the first by the presidential hopeful aimed directly at those early voting battlegrounds, where Giuliani is consistently running second or third within the GOP, even as he tops most national polls," writes David Saltonstall of the New York Daily News.

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