For most of the campaign, one of the clearest contrasts between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has been stylistic: She was pedestrian, talking in simple terms about people’s problems and her plans to help solve them; he was lyrical, speaking in grand themes about changing America.

In tonight’s opening statements, I thought, both candidates played against their types. Obama got right down to business, talking about the struggles Pennsylvanians face in this economy; Clinton began with a solliloquy about the Constitution Center (where the debate is being held) and how far America has come since its founding.

A conscious decision to address their respective weaknesses--for Clinton, that she’s been too negative; for Obama, that he’s been too out of touch with ordinary Americans? Perhaps. I’ll be curious to see if that pattern holds.

Update: So much for that theory. 40 minutes into the debate, Clinton has been hitting the negative points against Obama (Rev. Wright, etc.) pretty hard.  

--Jonathan Cohn