Hillary’s Debate Performance Reaffirms Her Lead

For anyone who was doubting her lead, check this from the WaPo:

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 16 — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s strong performance in Thursday’s Democratic debate here will blunt talk that she is on a downward slide and shift the focus to whether Sen. Barack Obama or former senator John Edwards can stop her march to the nomination, party strategists said Friday.

“In some ways the hiccup of two weeks ago, or the misstep of two weeks ago, was good for the Clinton campaign, in that it brought the Clinton campaign back to earth and back to reality,” said Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin, referring to her rocky outing in a debate in Philadelphia late last month. “It was a campaign that probably started looking to the general election a little too early, that didn’t take the voters’ questions about Hillary Clinton to heart enough.”

Steve Elmendorf, who ran the presidential campaign in 2004 for then-Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, said Clinton’s aggressiveness Thursday was a reminder to her rivals that she would not allow them to attack her indefinitely without responding. “She sent a very strong signal to the other candidates that there are no free shots here,” he said. “She is ahead, and if they attack her, she’ll hit back. Everybody has vulnerabilities.”

Indeed the hiccup of the Philadelphia debate probably was good to slap her back into reality that she’s in a fight for the nomination, it won’t just be handed to her (though it pretty much will be).

What the Vegas debate confirmed was Obama’s inexperience and the ineffectiveness of Edwards’ message. Thus, people came out seeing Hillary as the strong Democratic candidate with the best potential for the widest appeal among Democratic voters.

WaPo even declares here the winner:

Clinton (N.Y.) won the battle of Las Vegas by aggressively turning the tables on her rivals, challenging them where they are vulnerable and forcing them to answer questions they weren’t ready to answer. She once again demonstrated her skill as a debater — and Obama (Ill.) showed that he is not as strong in debates as he is in other forums.

Unlike last week where Hillary was forced to answer a question she wasn’t ready to answer, and kudos to Russert and Williams for making her answer it, or try to.