Welcome to yet another installment of HuffPost's Debate Liveblog Series — where we watch the debates and critique the candidates in real time. Today we're joined by nonverbal communication specialist John Neffinger, Political Brain author and language expert Drew Westen, and HuffPost/Eat The Press contributor Glynnis MacNicol (with occasional piping up by me — your moderator, ETP editor Rachel Sklar). It will be a fluid and chatty session — refreshed consistently over the morning. So keep checking in — in the meantime, here are some introductory thoughts by our panel!
John: So, here we are again. Another few days, another debate.
Rachel: I know! Did you hear that Obama said he's going to stop the insanity and pull out of the debates?
John: I did -- official, mandatory debates only from here on out.
Rachel: Apparently it's in a memo by Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. (Hee hee, "Plouffe.")
Glynnis: Yes - which will either give everyone else the opportunity to do the same...or give Hillary the opportunity to have way more face time.
John: Looking back over the debates so far, was this format necessarily favorable to Hillary for some reason, or did things just work out that way?
Rachel: Interesting. Well, it's certainly been favorable to her visually - the eye picks her out of the lineup instantly. That was driven home watching the GOP debate
John: She is the only candidate who can get away with wearing pink. Er, coral.
Drew: We're certainly getting a good picture of how Obama is or isn't being coached for the debates. It looks too much like it's from Shrum handbook and not enough from Obama's natural style.
John: That's right, very cerebral. Only in the most recent AFL-CIO debate did Obama regularly display any facial expression whatsoever.
Glynnis: I think it has to be said only a small slice of the population is getting a fuller picture of things from these debates...I can't imagine a lot of people are tuning in at 9am on a Sunday in August. Which is why soundbites are smart i.e. "I'm your girl!"
Rachel: Ha, good point. Yet bizarrely ABC claimed that they had a great audience for this last week (even though it was still beaten by "Meet Russert's Giant Head").
Glynnis: On a side note - Karl Rove is doing all the morning shows except "This Week."
Rachel: Oh! That's so interesting! A subtle undermining of the Dems even in retirement.
Glynnis: I think everyone should take a lesson from Kucinich's Chicago performance -- had any of the top three candidates played to the crowd so well, I think it could have defined them better in the mainstream media, "I'm your girl!" notwithstanding.
John: You also mentioned earlier Glynn, given how few people are watching these debates closely, memorable moments (on the upside or downside) are what matter here.
Glynnis: I think that Edwards is going to be the one under the gun...he has some 'splaining to do regarding Katrina and mortgage foreclosures.
Glynnis: Short version: he has investments with a company that is currently foreclosing on poor people's houses in New Orleans.
Rachel: Yikes. Talk your way outta THAT one, Mr. War On Poverty!
(see the rest of our pre-debate chatter here — the debate starts....now!)
Glynnis (9:05:37 AM): Welcome to the first Democratic debate ...in Iowa. George runs through the lineup by talking about Iowa poll support. Biden and Kucinich are tied at 2%. Gravel has none.
Rachel (9:06:40 AM): Which gets a rather uncalled for laugh, I think. Shame on you, George.
Glynnis (9:05:55 AM): Stephanopoulous goes straight for the jugular. The big question is does Obama have enough experience? Hillary?
Glynnis (9:06:10 AM): She's wearing a taupe suit. Not showing up so well on the background of red white and blue.
Rachel (9:06:40 AM): I know - her first fashion misstep!
Rachel (9:06:47 AM): Where is the Vogue-sanctioned Huma when you need her?
Glynnis (9:07:19 AM): Biden dodges the question a bit.
Rachel (9:07:49 AM): "Is Senator Obama ready?" George leads with a challenge, to everyone.
John (9:08:00 AM): Hillary began her morning with a nice warm smile today. Is she our girl?
Drew:Hillary's first response on Obama does a nice job of not taking the bait to look like she's attacking. She looks very magnanimous, and her voice lacks the shrillness of some of her prior debates.
Rachel (9:08:17 AM): And Obama rises to it! Great joke: "To prepare for this session, I rode in the bumper car at the Iowa State Fair" - funny.
Drew:George starts by orienting the audience to think of the debate as a two-person debate. The others, particularly Edwards, as well as Richardson, should have challenged that assumption right away.
Glynnis (9:08:18 AM): Richardson does take it back to himself here: "Clinton has experience, Obama has change. I have both." First laugh from the crowd.
Drew: Yes, but...Richardson should have stopped after it, because he did what he needed to do: make this not between Hillary and Obama. But Comedy 101: When you get the laugh, take advantage of it.
John (9:08:58 AM): I was wondering whether this Pakistan disagreement would be left to lie. George Stephanopoulos goes for it.
Note that George has set up a direct confrontation between Hillary and Obama here. The disagreement on the facts you can read about in the paper — what "wins" these confrontations in this setting is body language and tone. Hillary is not only firm, but slightly angry and disapproving when her integrity is challenged — her posture stiffens and her brow furrows and she raises her voice. She is not going to stand for attacks on her or her positions.
Obama, by contrast, attempts to take the high road. His response minimizes the disagreement rather than sharpening it as Hillary does, and while he stands firm, he projects serenity instead of toughness, looking disapproving only fleetingly. This shows a form of strength, and is a valid strategy if your toughness has already been established. But next to Hillary it is not clear that he is showing quite enough toughness, enough firmness. She makes clear with her body language when she objects to something. With Obama, you often have to listen closely to what he says to know where he objects.
Why is this so important? Remember the Swift Boaters. The specific facts of the Swift Boat accusations were not the issue. The issue was that when John Kerry's was challenged personally on his integrity, he would not stand up for himself. How then could Americans trust him to stand up for them? This is a dangerous world, and voters are looking for a leader who will stand up for all of us when our enemies challenge us.
Rachel (9:09:30 AM): Wow, that is an interesting way of looking at it. Obama is on the hook to show strength today, since he's the one taking all the heat right off the bat.
Drew: Good response by Obama about talking with our adversaries being the central point.
Glynnis (9:09:53 AM): Does this line of questioning strike anyone else as strange? Why is everything being viewed in the light of Obama?
John (9:10:36 AM): Very strange... but now George is going after Hillary's flip-flop on the nuclear option being on the table. George is stirring the pot here.
Glynnis (9:11:07 AM): The lighting at this debate is terrible on all the candidates. Everyone looks a bit orange.
Rachel (9:11:26 AM): Wow, it's an actual debate!
Rachel (9:11:30 AM): This is a nice change.
John (9:11:40 AM): Well done George.
Rachel (9:11:48 AM): I will add that the lineup has changed - Hillary is now stuck on the end. Good day to wear the bland beige suit.
Drew:Hillary continues to look authoritative without looking angry. That's just what she needs to do on foreign policy, as she's doing in her Iran/Pakistan answer.
Glynnis (9:12:22 AM): George is grinning. He knows he's stirring it up.
John (9:12:37 AM): Hillary's pugnacious demeanor also gets her out of George's gotcha. When he took the time to play a clip of Hillary contradicting herself on the nuclear option with Iran, she defiantly and firmly said his criticism did not apply -- it was a specific case, she was responding to Bush, etc. Her excuses were substantively very flimsy, but she made clear that anyone pushing the point would face her scorn... and the best the rest of these would-be Presidents could do was to meekly note in passing that she had in fact contradicted herself. This is especially remarkable in Obama's case, since the issue only came up when she attacked him for his inexperience. She is clearly the bully on this playground. And given what has happened to the last several Democratic nominees in their general elections, that has its appeal.
Drew:Obama is looking tougher this time with his "adversaries" on the stage, which is just what he needs to do. It sends strong signals about his ability to be aggressive if he needs to internationally. People need to see that from him.
Glynnis (9:13:37 AM): Oh, John Edwards!
John (9:13:56 AM): Edwards opens on a sunny note: "How about a little hope and optimism?" Unfortunately, we're talking about terrorism and national security, where a big sunny smile does not demonstrate the strength to handle this stuff.
Glynnis (9:14:11 AM): George is trying to turn this debate into a Obama Clinton showdown. Why aren't the other candidates reacting by pointing out they are all still in the game!
Drew:Edwards on Iran and Pakistan is showing a command of the issues of national security that he needed to show to take this out of the Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama question. It puts him back in the middle of the debate, where he needs to be.
Glynnis (9:15:42 AM): Gravel is back! "I think they are all wrong" "Cheney should be committed."
Drew: Gravel sounds sometimes like he's off the wall, but he also sometimes really speaks the truth.
John (9:16:04 AM): Oh brother. When you hear "Here's what I would do...." you know you're listening to Bill Richardson.
Glynnis (9:16:19 AM): Everyone sounds like they have a cold. Perhaps the lack of summer holiday is catching up with them.
Rachel (9:16:42 AM): There's a Bush/Iraqi parliament joke in here somewhere.
Glynnis (9:17:01 AM): George now brings it back to Karl Rove.
John (9:17:14 AM): Now George invites Obama to take a shot at Senator Clinton based on her soaring negatives in the polls. True to form, he is much too gentlemanly for that.
Glynnis (9:18:05 AM): They just did a crowd shot and there is a woman asleep in the audience.
Rachel (9:18:28 AM): I'm your guy!
John (9:18:30 AM): If they did a whole-stage shot, they might catch somebody napping up there too.
Rachel (9:18:32 AM): And nobody reacted!
Glynnis (9:18:40 AM): Obama has slipped into "hopeful" platitudes here.
Rachel (9:18:41 AM): Obama is doing well so far today overall.
Glynnis (9:18:54 AM): George is trying to press him for details.
Rachel (9:18:58 AM): I'm not sure they're platitudes - and he's certainly not alone in THAT, anyway. (Cf. Edwards, Richardson.)
John (9:19:28 AM): Yeah, Obama tried that "I'm your guy" at a moment when George was itching to cut him off. Bad timing if he was trying to make that his soundbite.
Glynnis (9:19:58 AM): Edwards jumps in now : "America wants change in the most serious way."
Drew:Obama is taking the tack that we should all get along across the parties. He started by attacking the GOP and then said the problems we have stem back through Democratic administrations. I don't think that's a winning strategy after 6 years of corruption, incompetence, and destruction of the Constitution. The point is not "why can't we all get along," but "let's get the Republicans out of here, and if any of them want to cross the aisle to work toward a good America again, we're happy to have them join us."
Drew:Edwards jumped right on that, noting that the GOP has been controlling things for 13 years. It took a while for him to get there, but his point about not bringing lobbyists together to get them to compromise was very powerful, and it led to applause because that's what people resonated with. He would do well to go, though, with a more complex message than "change." They're all saying "change." He bookended his most powerful comments in the "change" message, which sounds too much like the "change vs. more of the same" message we've heard before.
Drew:Hillary had a very strong answer about breaking down the distinction between taking money from lobbyists vs. taking the money from the people who give it to them. People got it, as you can see from the applause.
Drew:Edwards is returning to his more Southern gentlemanly stance from 2004, which is a very good move. He's being magnanimous while at the same time taking swings at, for example, the insurance companies that killed universal health insurance. Notice, though, that his repetition again about "change" led to no applause. That sounds like a worn-out appeal from past elections.
Glynnis (9:29:09 AM): The questions have moved on to Iraq.
Glynnis (9:30:59 AM): Joe Biden is looking good. The fact that he isn't forcefully jumping in to the questions, however, seems to drive home that conclusion of the last debate that he is now vying for an alternate position... Hillary says getting out of Iraq is dangerous and people don't like to hear this. She says she doesn't want to oversell the evacuation.
Rachel (9:33:12 AM): She sounds strong and authoritative here. Dropping facts like a vandal.
Rachel (9:33:33 AM): (Um, not a good time for a Vanilla Ice lyric?)
John (9:34:39 AM): Yes, let's talk about the Turks. Hillary is going into the details just to show off that she can speak about them fluently.
Glynnis (9:33:34 AM): Gravel wants to make it clear that he disagrees with everyone!
Glynnis (9:34:24 AM): I like how Clinton and Obama are looking at him as though they are taking Gravel seriously.
Glynnis (9:35:22 AM): Edwards concedes that he understands that George is trying to create a fight up here. If George continues to be so aggressive I think that he is going to unite the candidates against him.
John (9:35:57 AM): Richardson now directly challenges Hillary, saying that Hillary has talked about leaving non-combat troops behind in Iraq without combat troops to protect them.
Glynnis (9:36:20 AM): Well, now Richardson is questioning Clinton and Obama. Richardson sounds good on paper, but is awkward visually.
John (9:38:05 AM): He is awkward visually. When Richardson emphasizes his question: "What is the purpose of the residual force?" he holds out his hands and nods from his waist, and for a moment he looks like Bluto Blutarski.
Rachel (9:36:23 AM): We don't need no civil wa-a-ar!
Rachel (9:36:34 AM): (Um, not a good time for a Guns N' Roses lyric?)
Glynnis (9:37:43 AM): Biden may be so far down in the polls that it's safe for everyone to agree with him. The other candidates seem to be turning him into the wise old sage.
Glynnis (9:38:14 AM): But George wants to bring it back to Obama and Clinton... Oooh. Obama starts out all friendly and then drops in the point that he wishes all the people on this stage had considered these points earlier!
Rachel (9:40:12 AM): "Nobody had more experience than Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney" - brilliant point.
Drew:He's absolutely right on that, and it makes the point well that experience doesn't equal good decisions.
Rachel (9:40:22 AM): And man does he sound authoritative. Something is different about Obama today. He has it.
Glynnis (9:41:02 AM): Obama just turned his lack of experience into a positive...just as Hillary turned her "negatives" into a positive. I agree with you. Obama seems to be at the end of his rope with the "lack of experience" comments.
Drew:This is the first time in any of the debates I've heard Obama use a metaphor in any debate--about Bush driving the bus into a ditch and firing the driver. Notice that he got applause. He needs to keep coming back to examples, personal stories, and metaphors that make people picture what he wants them to picture (like the ditch), which are much more powerful than the kinds of abstractions he's used in the past.
John (9:41:51 AM): He is doing pretty well today. I wonder though if any of this rises to the level of a clip that anyone not awake right now will ever see.
Glynnis (9:42:50 AM): Kucinich says the Democrats on this stage have to take responsibility for this war. The camera cuts to Hillary and she nods.
Glynnis (9:43:21 AM): George isn't even pretending that the other candidates matter.
Rachel (9:43:52 AM): "I'm just a caveman, I don't understand your world..."
Glynnis (9:43:59 AM): Apropos of nothing. Hillary is really good on stage. So polished.
Rachel (9:44:48 AM): Oh, gosh. John Edwards, talking about the death of his son, and Elizabeth's cancer. Wow. This is a sobering reminder of what this man has been through. What his family has been through.
John (9:45:39 AM): Next question from an "average person," and Hillary nodded very empathetically when she had the question re-read to her. That was her answer right there.
Glynnis (9:45:42 AM): And now she manages to turn a question about a personal God into an answer about her experience. "If I wasn't a praying person before I got to the White House I would have been after a few days."
Glynnis (9:48:32 AM): Obama is owning this question. He takes it out of the personal sphere and equates prayer with the ability to affect change.
Rachel (9:48:52 AM): Nice ice-breaker from Kucinich!
Glynnis (9:49:18 AM): Kucinich is funny! "I've spent the last twenty minutes praying you were going to call on me."
Glynnis (9:49:36 AM): He is also the only candidate to refer to specific Biblical passages.
John (9:50:41 AM): Matthew 25, every liberal's favorite Bible verse, will not impress evangelicals.
Rachel (9:51:03 AM): I rather like Genesis 38:10, but that's just me.
Rachel (9:50:37 AM): I think Dodd is a wonderful speaker. And there's his trademark Kelly green tie! (He favors those.)
Drew:The prayer question shows where Democrats have moved in speaking about their faith, which is tremendously important in a highly religious country that has come to associate faith with the GOP. But someone should have said that it's one thing to pray, but it's another to expect that prayer alone will solve our problems.
Rachel: Actually, Biden pretty much said that.
Drew: It's the job of leadership to control things like what happened in Katrina and its aftermath. Government shouldn't sit back and pray that we have good levies.
Rachel: Fair enough.
Glynnis (9:51:22 AM): George isn't even pretending to be representative of the larger viewing public. He is showing his colors as a Washington insider here.
Glynnis (9:54:09 AM): Somebody needs to do something sharp soon! Or John is right, this Sunday morning August debate won't even make a wave in the MSM. This debate is not furthering a whole lot in my opinion except to strengthen Obama's decision not to participate in them anymore.
Rachel (10:01:04 AM): Oh my Gosh, the viewer-submitted video question. Yikes. This ain't no snowman!
Rachel (10:01:48 AM): I'm gonna say it: This is a boring debate.
John (10:02:21 AM): Joe Biden just brought down the house with one of his trademark "I'm a big-mouthed idiot" jokes.
Glynnis (10:02:51 AM): Yes, we love Joe Biden and his self-deprecation!
Rachel (10:01:04 AM): Well, you do, Biden girl!
John (10:04:37 AM): Obama has a good response here, highlighting his speech to Detroit automakers telling them we need to raise fuel efficiency. It was a good moment that has not gotten all the attention he had hoped.
Glynnis (10:04:52 AM): Edwards is far from owning this debate, but I think if he can hang in there until Feb/March I think he could be the alternate for those independents that Hillary supposedly alienates.
John (10:06:13 AM): That's interesting: despite his stumbles, Obama has been leading the race for the not-Hillary candidate. But at this point maybe there will be room for a not-Obama not-Hillary candidate as well.
Drew: On trade, Edwards came in strong again with his point that his primary question in any trade agreement will be to ask whether this is good for middle class and working Americans. He's doing a better job this time than in Chicago of hitting hard on multinational corporations and other special interests while not looking angry. It associates the anger more where he wants it, on those who would use our government to take for themselves, rather than on himself.
Glynnis (10:07:09 AM): Richardson says he is not the "scripted candidate" alluding perhaps to his homosexuality is a choice remark at the LOGO forum.
Drew: Edwards is the only one seems to answer honestly about whether there was a time he didn't tell his constituents the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Hillary still is hedging again. Every American knows why the Democrats gave Bush his carte blanche on the war: They were afraid of being branded as "weak on terror." Dodd gave a really honest answer on his failure to filibuster the "No Rights Left Behind" act (the Military Commissions Act) from last September. Of course, he didn't filibuster last week's extension of that act that gave Alberto Gonzales the right to read his email.
John (10:08:04 AM): Richardson saying he is "averaging about one mistake a week" is endearing, but not a compelling case for supporting him.
Glynnis (10:08:40 AM): Especially not when he follows it up with talk about nukes and Iran.
Glynnis (10:09:58 AM): Despite all of George's antagonism, the candidates seem to be going out of their way to point out how they agree with each other.
John (10:10:30 AM): Everyone except Hillary.
Rachel (10:10:52 AM): What? She kicked that off from the very beginning, talking about building herself up and not tearing others down, taking it back to being a united force against the GOP. C'mon, give our girl a little more credit.
John: Hillary is happy to have the party united against Bush on the war she gave him the authority to wage, but she has been the ones drawing distinctions betweens her positions and Obama's on Pakistan, meeting with foreign autocrats, and the nuclear option with Iran. That's not a criticism -- I generally think clarifying those distinctions is a good thing where there are real substantive disagreements.
Then again, sometimes a candidate invents or exaggerates differences just to have an excuse to criticize an opponent and look tough doing it. Hillary has arguably done this, most transparently on the Iranian nuke option (as George pointed out), and on Pakistan somewhat too. This is probably "Hurting America" in Jon Stewart's sense, but it can be effective campaigning if you can get away with it, and polls suggest thus far she has. Obama has stuck to his positions, but he has not criticized her for her positions except obliquely. Nor has he highlighted her use of these tactics to question her character (even gently), as any self-respecting Republican presidential candidate would.
Glynnis (10:12:52 AM): Considering this debate is being held in Iowa (some of the most privileged voters out there) they are very tame! Perhaps everyone there really is in church.
Drew: On No Child Left Behind, aside from the fact that neither he nor anyone else should use that name for the act (it's part of the Republican "brand" and product line), Obama made the kind of mistake he's been making in the debates: talking about how teachers are "frustrated" by the act. They're not frustrated. They're angry. It's those kinds of weak or nonexistent emotion words in his debate oratory that distinguishes it from his moving oratory when you hear Obama unplugged.
John (10:13:48 AM): Richardson is strong on education here, with a nice ringing response that does not sound canned. But the camera catches him looking sad and out of sorts for several long seconds after George cuts him off.
Rachel (10:13:57 AM): As in the GOP debate, George usually lets them talk, so it's telling when he does actually cut someone off. Perhaps he was doing Richardson a favor, cf. Melissa Etheridge ("I don't think you understood my question..."). God, that just never gets old.
Drew:The candidates need to remember that the camera may be on them when they're not speaking. Obama's posture (neck stretched upwards) and Edwards' tapping fingers (at the beginning of the debate) get picked up outside of awareness if they aren't noticed consciously.
Drew: Obama: "We do need more liquidity" -- that's the kind of answer that doesn't help him. What does "liquidity" mean? Democrats have been speaking in private language like this for years, and it mostly makes people feel dumb if they don't understand it. It creates distance from the candidate. He seems, toward the end to be lapsing toward his prior debate style. He looked much stronger at the beginning; he's now looking more cerebral again. You can be cerebral, as Bill Clinton was, but you want to use words that people understand and make sure they know you "feel their pain."
John (10:14:07 AM): Glynnis, you were wondering if Gravel was going off the cliff..?
Glynnis (10:14:25 AM): Gravel is speaking truth to power. We are 46th in literacy in the world he points out. And then somehow makes it about nukes... and goes right off the cliff.
John (10:14:46 AM): Even he was chuckling at how disjointed that was after George finally brought the curtain down.
Glynnis (10:17:56 AM): Richardson excessively laughs at Gravel's response before responding himself. Badly timed, and makes Richardson look like the silly one.
Drew: Biden - Great start on education about how tomorrow morning his wife will walk for her 30th year in a row into the classroom. And great idea about making performance-based pay about paying high performers in college to become teachers. That was a strong, crisp, concise, realistic answer. Biden at his best.
John (10:19:20 AM): Gravel aside, all of these people have a coherent, strong story to tell on education. I wonder what any of them could actually get done on education as President. Would any one them make it a priority? Would they have any political capital or budget left after a bruising health care fight?
Rachel (10:19:34 AM): Obama looks prescient here - this debate seems like a tipping point of non-relevance. When's Karl Rove on?
John (10:19:56 AM): Good question.
Glynnis (10:20:04 AM): Can we watch Karl Rove after this?
John (10:20:18 AM): Okay, the final question - what decisive moment shaped your character?
Rachel (10:20:30 AM): I would like to see some of Obama as an angry young man here, frankly. He doesn't move the needle much on showing emotion.
Glynnis (10:21:02 AM): With his working class ties and his radical plans...
Rachel (10:21:59 AM): Nice! This is the song-droppingest liveblog ever.
Glynnis (10:22:47 AM): Guess what? John Edwards father worked in a mill...had you heard?
John (10:23:25 AM): Wow. How is it that these people speak in public for a living, and are asked for a compelling personal story from their lives, and can't come up with anything memorable?
Rachel (10:22:49 AM): Aw. That was a nice story about Edwards' dad. Today he's connecting with me. I think a lot of Americans would connect with that notion, the notion of self-improvement and aiming high - it taps into the upward striving element of the American Dream.
Glynnis (10:23:19 AM): Hillary on feminism: She owns this answer.
Rachel (10:23:24 AM): HILLARY IS A SISTA!!!! (Note how she folds in people of color.)
Glynnis (10:23:48 AM): ...and she does by alluding to the women's movement. I really think she needs to play this angle a bit more.
Rachel (10:23:54 AM): I'm sorry, I was inspired by that last interchange. John, I think these are actually quite compelling personal stories. I'm with them. Which is the point, right?
Glynnis (10:23:58 AM): And then she brings it back to her mother. Nice. She says thirty years ago she could never have imagined herself as president. And then refers to the women's movement/civil rights movement
Glynnis (10:25:49 AM):...and then takes it to a personal level by saying how much she owes her mother, who never got a change to go to college.
Rachel (10:26:07 AM): Like I said: Inspiring. Look at all these candidates, running for president - something their parents could never have dreamed of doing. That, right there, is the best of America. (Says the Candian. But still.)
John (10:26:43 AM): Thanks for that. What I could see was that she said it with a warm smile, which we are now seeing more regularly from her.
Glynnis (10:26:35 AM): Okay! Impressions on the whole? I don't think that we learned anything new from this debate. If anything, this debate seemed like a bit of an ego exercise for George Steph...perhaps a metaphor for the media in general as far at these debates are concerned.
Glynnis (10:31:28 AM): ON TO ROVE!
John (10:31:42 AM): Should we liveblog him? We can follow him from channel to channel.
Rachel (10:31:52 AM): Neat timing — to pass off gracefully to NBC. So, gang: Takeaways?
John (10:33:34 AM): The only thing I saw new here was Hillary being warmer. George started strong, trying to start arguments, but Hillary swatted away his challenges. And no one -- not George, not her rivals -- would hold her feet to the fire either on the substance of the Iran/nukes issue or on the separate issue of why she would accuse Obama of things she had done herself. Upshot: There were some good substantive responses along the way, but nothing for the highlight reel.
Glynnis (10:31:16 AM): I think it's interesting, though, what wasn't mentioned. No 9/11 mention despite yesterday's fire at ground zero. No mention of Obama opting out of further debates. No mention of New Orleans or Katrina despite the Edwards mortgage kerfuffle and the fact Hurricane Dean is bearing down.
Drew:Some final thoughts: Hillary Clinton continues to look strong. Her final comment about her mother being her role model after talking about the women's movement was a nice conclusion. Obama turned in a better performance than usual, but he's not hitting any home runs. Edwards continues to connect with voters. He looked stronger and more definitive today on national security, and started weaving in his history, particularly in his final answer about his father trying to better himself by learning through watching public television. Richardson, like Hillary Clinton, seems authoritative, but uninspiring. He sounds too much like the laundry list of issues that Democrats traditionally run on and lose. Biden was strong today, as he's been through much of the debates: smart, thoughtful, and emotionally available. Dodd continues to seem very presidential and thoughtful. He's just not hitting anything out of the park that would put him in the top tier. Kucinich enunciates clearly many of the positions of the left and many things that are true that other candidates don't want to say. He just comes off as goofy, and he's too far left for much of the country, whether or not he's right. Gravel, well, he's a hoot. He, too, sometimes tells it like it is. Sometimes he tells something, but who knows what it is.
Rachel: Who knows, indeed. That is about all I can manage from my debate-addled brain right about now; we hope you enjoyed our spirited commentary/free-associative music references. If there's a problem, yo we'll solve it — check out the hook while our bloggers revolve it. See you next time!
Previous HuffPost Debate LiveBlogs:
GLBT Debate [Lane Hudson and Katharine Zaleski]
AFL-CIO Debate - Chicaog [Matt Kohut, Glynnis MacNicol, John Neffinger, Rachel Sklar]
GOP Debate - Des Moines [John Neffinger, Rachel Sklar and Drew Westen]
YouTube Debate [Howard Fine and John Neffinger]