Tonight's debate pushed front and center the question of whether the Democratic Party can do what it did in 1960, nominate an inspiring young leader paired with a Washington veteran in the workings of government.
John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson persuaded voters that they could open a New Frontier with the first Catholic president in American history. This year, the Democrats can offer a ticket with two firsts.
In tone and substance, the debate in Austin suggested that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton together can restore the damage that George W. Bush has done to the American body politic and that John McCain might only prolong.
Their policy differences tonight were invisible to the naked eye, and they ended up with the kind of hearty handshake that could be repeated to seal their designation as the 2008 ticket at the Democratic convention in August.
For Obama, it would be a demonstration of his claim that he can bring people together. On her part, it would take character for Hillary Clinton to accept the vice-presidency after leading in the presidential polls for more than a year.
But voters are rendering a different judgment now, and when the Texas and Ohio primaries are over, Obama should look back at how JFK in 1960 insured that his party ended eight years of Republican rule by teaming up with his opponent for the nomination.
If the ticket won, Hillary Clinton in 2016 would still be younger than John McCain is now.