The Note: Pillow Fight

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(And NBC's Brian Williams did offer Obama a couple of queries that Amy Poehler could have rolled her eyes at: "How were her comments about you unfair? . . . How did you take those remarks when you heard them?")

Beat-the-press has particular resonance with her embattled staff and supporters -- but it may actually have taken Clinton herself off-message. As closing arguments go, when was the last time you saw a press-is-unfair strategy pay dividends -- in a Democratic primary, no less?

"Poor Hillary," AP's Ron Fournier writes of the "new tactic in Tuesday night's debate: self-pity." He continues, "It is not unusual for politicians to feel sorry for themselves. Obama is not above whining about criticism and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has one of the thinnest skins in politics. But the New York senator's poor-me attitude punctuated a jarring week of shifting strategies from a desperate Clinton camp."

"It wasn't Clinton's most flattering moment; she seemed perilously close to declaring some sort of vast media conspiracy," Joanna Weiss writes for The Boston Globe. "But it seemed a calculated moment for Clinton, too. Last night, as she played the role of the frustrated challenger, she also tried to prove that righteous indignation can be a political asset."

Maureen Dowd pronounces the attack a dud in her New York Times column: "Beating on the press is the lamest thing you can do. It is only because of the utter open-mindedness of the press that Hillary can lose 11 contests in a row and still be treated as a contender."

In what might have been their last chance to face down each other -- and demand the collective attention of the entire media for at least a new cycle or two -- Clinton suffered from the same dynamic she benefited from back when she was ahead comfortably in the polls. Debates are graded on curves, with frontrunners controlling the arcs.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman: "Bottom line, on my scorecard: a tie at best, and certainly not enough of a win for Clinton to change the dynamics of the nomination contest, which Obama is poised to lock up."

Time's Michael Duffy: "Clinton tried time and again to draw sharp distinctions between herself and Obama, and argue that the differences matter; while Obama, turning aside most of the distinctions large or small, used his time to rise above the arguments, elevate the conversation and invoke the larger causes that dominate his campaign speeches. In this regard, Obama narrowly but unmistakably out-pointed Clinton, with the potentially decisive Ohio and Texas primaries less than a week away."

"Clinton dominated much of the debate -- for good or bad," Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza writes. "She repeatedly sought to take the fight to Obama over his campaign tactics, his commitment to universal health care, his alleged naivete on foreign affairs, and even his initial unwillingness to use the word 'reject' when decrying the endorsement he received from Louis Farrakhan. But Obama successfully parried most of Clinton's offense and even turned some of her aggressiveness against her -- as when he painted the difference between rejecting and denouncing Farrakhan as part of the old politics he was running to change."

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