POST-DEBATE OPEN THREAD…. Well, wasn’t that pleasant? No Wal-Mart, no Rezko, no race-based disputes. I can’t help but think that the last debate, the ugliest of the campaign, annoyed so many people, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama came into tonight knowing they had to be on their best behavior. They had plenty of opportunities to take some shots, but both carefully avoided confrontation.

I can never tell how people are going to respond to these debates — in terms of who “won,” or who had the best “zingers” — but my first-blush reaction is that these two seemed to be at the top of their game. I thought Clinton was stronger on discussion of healthcare policy, which dominated the first hour, while Obama was stronger on Iraq, which dominated the second. (What’s the old expression? “If you’re explaining, your losing”? Clinton still seems awkward talking about her 2002 vote. She doesn’t want to admit a mistake, but she also doesn’t want to stand by her previous position. It leaves her in a tough spot, politically and rhetorically.)

I also noted repeated references to John McCain — by my count, four from Obama and two from Clinton. They’re already laying the groundwork for the general election, which is encouraging. (Obama also got a nice dig in on Romney, though at this point, it’s probably unnecessary.)

So, what did you think?

Post Script: By the way, did CNN really need all of those cut-away shots to movie stars? Yes, it’s Hollywood, we get it.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.