DEBATE WRAPUP….Was tonight’s debate really the last one? Damn. And I was finally getting to like them.

Just kidding. Seriously, though, can someone please put a sock in Tim Russert? I didn’t even see the entire exchange, but his badgering of Obama on the Louis Farrakhan issue was pretty wretched. It was maybe legitimate to bring it up in the first place, but to keep at it well after Obama had made his position crystal clear was beyond the pale.

Nor did Hillary cover herself with glory on this question, with her inane “denounce” vs. “reject” comeback. Obama’s response — Fine, if it will make you happy, then I denounce and reject Farrakhan — was dexterous and smooth.

Overall, I thought Clinton did about as well as she could have on the attack front, but it just wasn’t enough. Obama seemed the better, more grounded debater tonight. For example, when Hillary made the point that although Obama’s 2002 anti-war speech was all well and good, once he was actually in the Senate he ended up voting the same way she did, I was nodding along. It’s a legitimate point. But Obama’s answer was pretty good:

It was not a matter of, well, here is the initial decision, but since then we’ve voted the same way. Once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so many ways we could get out. The question is, who’s making the decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch? And the fact is that Senator Clinton often says that she is ready on day one, but in fact she was ready to give in to George Bush on day one on this critical issue.

Clinton and Obama are too skilled for either one to ever land a knockout blow in these things, but I’d give tonight’s debate to Obama on points. Whether voters who are tuning in for the first time feel the same way, I couldn’t say.