Nevada Debate Impressions

AP Photo

Race question right out of the blocks. Hillary says she and Barack Obama called the truce. Obama called for it on camera, Hillary followed with a statement -- not exactly the same thing and important since Hillary's camp often accurately points out Obama follows Hillary's lead on some issues -- health care and economic stimulus to name just two.Obama tries to rise above the race issue and get back to the terrain that has been safest for him all along -- that of transcending race and seeking to build a bigger coalition. Edwards weighs in tangentially on the side of Obama by highlighting role of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  and those who conducted lunch counter sit-ins, not the legislative dexterity and power of former President Lyndon Johnson.On Tim Russert's question of his campaign's involvement in pushing the race story by highlighting comments from Clinton surrogates that had a racial component, Obama appeared to concede the point that his camp bore some responsibility and pledged to set a non-racial tone going forward. Obama also rejected the theory that in New Hampshire the difference between the polls and the final result had something to do with whites lying to pollsters about supporting Obama but voting for Clinton in private.  Obama's comfort level can be described as minimally comfortable. He tried mightly, again, to steer it back to the change dynamic.Russert's question to Clinton about Robert Johnson's reference to what Obama was "doing in the neighborhood" that he wouldn't described, Clinton said his comments were out of bounds but said in the campaign it mattered less what someone "none of us have ever heard of" said, but what the candidates themselves say. Johnson, one of the most successful media moguls (white or black) in American history, might be surprised to hear Clinton refer to him in that way. Johnson's comments were widely interpreted as a reference to Obama's admitted drug use (marijuana and cocaine) as a teen. Johnson later said he was referring to Obama's work as a community organizer, an explanation neither the Obama camp nor many black talk radio hosts accepted.