No less a student of the game than George Will calls the debate:
“immeasurably the best” in American history.
Which has one wondering, Better, even, than Lincoln vs. Douglas? And, of course, Will does not go that far. He meant "modern" history, which is to say, since Nixon vs. Kennedy. Will says he has seen them all and one certainly has to take his judgment seriously. He is, after all, George Will.
But if he is right, then it is hugely dissatisfying. If this is "the best," then where is the memorable phrase? "Thank you, Candy," is the one that comes to mind and that doesn't seem like one for the ages. Oh, yes, "Binders of women." But that's a punch line for the next few nights of feeble political comedy.
And, then, what exchange during the debate established the bright dividing line that distinguishes the candidates and their visions? The president promised more of the same and Governor Romney made it pretty clear why it is hard to get excited about that. Otherwise...
There was, meanwhile, a contest going on where the outcome was clear cut and one of player's performance was worth the kind of admiration Will showered on an hour and a half of political theater. The Detroit Tigers defeated the New York Yankees 2-1with Justin Verlander pitching shutout ball for eight innings. Verlander is 3-0 in the playoffs, so far, with an ERA of under 1.0. The real measure of just how well he pitched last night is that, according to ESPN he “made 18 pitches in three-ball counts but did not walk a hitter. He's the first pitcher in more than two years (regular season or postseason) to throw that many three-ball pitches without issuing a walk.”
If either Governor Romney or President Obama had shown that sort of command last night, his election would have been secured.
Will watched the wrong contest.