Who Won Last Night's Debate? The "Experts" Are All Over the Lot But SC Voters Say Obama

    Debate winners are in the minds of the beholder. That’s why this morning we have Iowa’s David Yepsen saying the second-tier candidates all did well, including Bill Richardson (we thought he bombed); the Politico’s rising star Ben Smith saying it was Hillary’s night (better than Edwards?), and David Broder talking about how impressive the field was (we thought it lacked stature). (Ewen MacAskill of England's Guardian also gave it to Hillary but he watched it live and live observers can never judge a debate accurately. Still, maybe if Hillary does poorly here she can move to England.) Slate's Mickey Kaus gave it to Obama -- though at least he agreed with us that Hillary still comes on way too strong ("If that's the non-grating Hillary, I hope we don't see the grating Hillary," he wrote.)
    Nevertheless, there was a poll of South Carolina voters done immediately after the debate. Keep in mind that when members of the public are asked whom they thought did best in a debate, they almost always pick the candidate whom they were supporting going into the debate. And this poll included Republicans, as long as they watched the contest.
    In any event, Obama won the poll hands down, beating Hillary in second, and Edwards in third. He compiled his plurality by essentially being the overwhelming favorite of black voters and doing very well among independents.
    This is very good news for Obama (not to mention Kaus who appears to have gotten it right). First, Obama did not even put in one of his better performances. More important, it means that Obama is very quickly consolidating the black vote. His strength among independents -- if this poll is indicative -- also means that in open primaries (like California), he has a very good chance to do better than expected.

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