The Note: Baggage Check

Steinberg continues: "But Mr. Stephanopoulos said that after digesting much of what had been sent forth in the blogosphere on Thursday morning, he would have approached one critical aspect of his job differently. 'I could imagine moving up some of the questions,' he said. 'You can differ over that.' "

Howard Kurtz, in The Washington Post: "Some commentators praised ABC's handling of the debate, the only such clash before Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary, but the critics were far more vocal. Greg Mitchell, editor of the trade publication Editor & Publisher, called the debate 'shameful.' " gets into the act, with an anti-ABC petition.

Does Obama risk underlining the point if his backers blame the messengers? "The louder Obama's fans whine, the more obvious it is that their candidate bombed and that tough questions are Obama's kryptonite," Jennifer Rubin blogs for Commentary. "It would be best for the Obama supporters to say it doesn't matter, they're all only words, words, words. Oh, wait: maybe not. . ."

The AP's Walter Mears sees both Democrats grappling with the "gaffe tax." "It cost President Gerald R. Ford his momentum in the final phase of his losing 1976 campaign. It stalled Jimmy Carter four years later. It is being levied on Obama now, with Hillary Clinton trying to push up the cost while seeking a bye for her own misstatements."

The New York Times' David Brooks sees Obama coming back to Earth. "He sprinkled his debate performance Wednesday night with the sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that are the stuff of conventional politics," Brooks writes. "When Obama began this ride, he seemed like a transcendent figure who could understand a wide variety of life experiences. But over the past months, things have happened that make him seem more like my old neighbors in Hyde Park in Chicago."

A different debate take, from Princeton professor Julian Zelizer: "These complaints are not exactly fair. They assume the existence of a higher level of politics than we have had for a long time," Zelizer writes at Huffington Post. "As frustrating as it might be, the truth is that the quality of our political debate has greatly diminished over the course of the twentieth century. Since the late 1900s, and especially since the 1950s, we have lived in an era where political campaigns revolve around character and personality with an emphasis on scandal and gaffes."

Interesting take on "bitter" from the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial page. "Sadness is the right response to Barack Obama's now famous riff on small-town America," Kevin Ferris writes. "What's really sad is the end of the promise Obama offered from his first appearance on the national stage at the Democratic convention in 2004. There, and in subsequent speeches, was the hint that this was a man who believed in reaching out, who would be fair to all sides, who could respect those with whom he disagreed."

For some lighter fare -- all it took was the magic of Stephen Colbert to bring Obama, Clinton, and former senator John Edwards together for an evening. Clinton fixed his technical problems -- and his makeup. "Wow, Sen. Clinton. You are so prepared for any situation. I just don't know how to thank you enough," Colbert said.

And Colbert let Obama add to the show's "on notice" list: "Manufactured political distractions, you are officially on notice," Obama concluded.

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