Redefining Universal Health Care: Clinton's Big Win

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For all of the sparring tonight, I think Clinton did her best work in a quieter section of the debate.

She successfully defined universal health care as mandated heath care coverage. It's a tack she's pursued in several other debates. And maybe it was Edwards piling on tonight that made the difference. But she drew a bright line with core Democrats and universal mandates on one side, and Barack Obama and his proposal on the other.

In general, I thought Obama did really quite a good job tonight returning serve. But this seemed like an ace for Clinton. He didn't effectively challenge her on her assertion that his plan leaves 15 million more Americans uncovered than her plan would. Experts who've studied both mandates (Clinton and Edwards) and universal accessibility (Obama) have said both would likely leave millions outside the system.

And Clinton played the moment effectively to suggest that Obama -- that Reagan sympathizer -- isn't as committed to "going to the mat" for core Democratic principals as is she.

In a night with a lot of low blows, I thought this was hard-ball politics well played.