Amid Rachel Maddow's decisive ratings success, the most credible knock against the Keith Olbermann protege is that her guests tend to reinforce her own viewpoint rather than act, more provocatively, as foils. This made the MSNBC host's interview with Barack Obama tonight particularly tricky. If Maddow was too deferential, she'd be knocked as predictably in the tank; too hard and she'd alienate her lefty viewers. Her solution was clever: Needle the Democratic presidential nominee on his left flank with questions about why he doesn't slam the Republican Party more and whether Afghanistan might turn into an Iraq-style quagmire.

Unfortunately, Maddow's execution was a bit off. She let Obama run the clock too often with his answers and wasted time on two questions concerning infrastructure spending where the candidate's answer could have been predicted in advance ("Well, I've actually talked about this," Obama began one response).

But the interview was good enough. Click the video at top to watch some of the feistier moments. What will be remembered, above all, is that Maddow — less than two months into her show — got it in the first place.