What happened
Hillary Clinton complained that reporters were being harder on her than on Barack Obama as the rival Democrats clashed in their final debate before crucial primaries in Ohio and Texas next week. Clinton accused Obama of using “misleading and discredited information” to turn voters against her plan for universal health insurance coverage, and Obama pushed back just as aggressively, saying Clinton had bombarded him with “negative attacks” but he hadn’t “whined about it.” (The Washington Post, free registration)

What the commentators said
It’s hard to argue with Clinton’s complaint that “everyone in the press” is being “overly, and overtly, pro-Obama,” said Mike Madden in Salon. But Clinton blew a chance to score some sympathy by complaining about the bias before the MSNBC moderators had the chance to lob softballs at Obama, which made her come across as a “whiny grouch” instead of a “beleaguered victim.”

Clinton’s “peevish” gripe was a weak way to open such an important debate, said Katharine Q. Seelye in The New York Times’ The Caucus blog. “Her campaign believes that the media has given her a tougher time while going easier on Obama,” fair enough. But her “specific complaint” -- that she always gets the first question in the debates -- was a clumsy way to make the point. And she really went off the rails when she illustrated the problem by referring to a “Saturday Night Live” skit, instead of saying how having to answer first puts her at a disadvantage.

“All in all, it was a rather ignominious, belittling way to almost certainly close out the Clinton Era,” said Marc Cooper in The Huffington Post. Clinton’s campaign is in freefall after, “if we are to believe her campaign rhetoric,” 35 years of “selfless public service,” and all she has to offer is “a torrent of peevish, petty, picayune, and intellectually dishonest bickering and parsing”?

The media have certainly been quick to write off Clinton’s chances, said Jim Geraghty in National Review Online’s The Campaign Spot blog. But Clinton has shown she’s “a fighter” by tearing into Obama, and anyone who saw the debate now knows that “Obama may break his word on public financing and spending limits, that he's ranked the most liberal senator, that he didn't have much to say about Putin's successor, and is supported by Louis Farrakhan.” Obama has been “floating on a cloud since Iowa,” and Clinton’s just trying to bring him down to earth.