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A Lukewarm Debate

OXFORD, Miss., Sept. 26 -- It was supposed to have been a Goldilocks debate.

At one wooden lectern stood the Republican nominee, tempestuous and tightly wound. A few steps across the red carpet stood his Democratic opponent, cerebral and condescending. "Is John McCain too hot?" Chris Matthews of "Hardball" broadcast from the Ole Miss campus before Friday night's first general-election debate. "Is Barack Obama too cold?"

But when they opened their mouths, what came out was neither hot nor cold, but a tepid gruel.

McCain was controlled. Obama was succinct. And both were so mild that moderator Jim Lehrer didn't know what to do. "Talk to each other," he urged. "Say it directly to him," he pleaded. "Do you have something directly to say, Senator Obama, to Senator McCain about what he just said? . . . Respond directly to him about that, to Senator Obama about that. He's made it twice now."

Read the whole Sketch

-- Dana Milbank

By Dana Milbank  | September 27, 2008; 12:00 AM ET
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