Overall grade: A-
Set the evening's tone early on by purposefully smiling and nodding at Obama's answers. Played the experience card deftly without appearing harsh, and the "ready from day one" card using crisp, rarely wonky policy talk. Was able to maintain, or at least feign, a relaxed demeanor throughout, although she was on guard for the slightest slight. Showed relative restraint when her rival reminded the audience of her disastrous response during a previous debate on the issue of drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants. Batted away the expected "tough" questions (Clinton Fatigue, First Lady experience) with prolonged but well-delivered rote versions of her campaign talking points, but stumbled gravely over Iraq in the last quarter of the debate. Bottom line: She reminded her supporters why they favor her, and may have won over some undecideds with her unfalteringly upbeat attitude and air of maturity.
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