Vegas baby — woooo! The Dems are in the house and they are ready to party! Meanwhile, HuffPo's Marc Cooper is literally in the house, live-reporting from the spin room and positively tasting the democracy in the air. It's time for Hillary Clinton to defend and retrench, Obama to smack down and break out, and for John Edwards to stake our some sort of territory nearby-ish. Also, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd are there. And Kucinich! Pan to his wife! Oh, my God, those too on the loose in Vegas, wow. The mind reels. Back to the task at hand: Once again we've got got HuffPo mainstays Glynnis MacNicol and John Neffinger, plus your trusty ETP editor Rachel Sklar (me). Together, we'll make sure that Blitzer stays in line. Blitzer? You Blitzer, you brought 'er! And with that, our erudite, cogent commentary begins. Join us, won't you? Let the games begin!
Rachel (8:08:48 PM): Welcome, candidates! If you ramble on, Wolf will stop you gently, oh so gently. And now, your walk-ons! Ready thy applause-o-meter!
Rachel (8:09:08 PM): Whooo Campbell Brown! First pregnant debate moderator ever! On behalf of womanhood, we are proud.
John (8:09:17 PM): Question for Hillary! Let's pick up right where we left off.
Rachel (8:09:38 PM): Glyn, do we think that John Roberts is the first-ever Canadian debate moderator?
Glynnis (8:09:48 PM):Hillary: "This pantsuit is asbestos tonight." What does that mean? (John says it means fire-retardent. Aha!)
Rachel (8:10:17 PM): First up: Hillary, with some very nice lipstick. I'm hearing her words, all right? But I'm seeing her lips move, and they're crimsony-red with a touch of shimmer, and I likey. What can I say, it would look good on Edwards too if he would only dare.
Glynnis (8:10:19 PM): Hmm - my money is on Peter Jennings, no?
Rachel (8:10:29 PM): Oh right! Duh.
Rachel (8:10:39 PM): Wolf: "Triangulating - whatever that means." Arianna, would you like to tell him?
Rachel (8:10:44 PM): Obama in a candy cane tie! 'Tis the season!
Rachel (8:10:56 PM): Obama: "Senator Clinton is a capable politician" - yikes, damning with faint praise! He wants straight answers to tough questions.
Rachel (8:11:15 PM): Driver's licenses - moot. Worth to rehash? Let me think about it: Ah, yes.
Glynnis (8:11:28 PM): Wow! Obama takes a swing! No preamble required
Glynnis (8:12:25 PM): Obama is STARING Hillary down!!!!
Glynnis (8:13:00 PM): Gloves are off kids...Tim Russert, eat your heart out!
Rachel (8:13:22 PM): And the smackdown begins.
Glynnis (8:13:40 PM): Obama making the good point that there is very little difference in his and Hillary's health care plans.
Rachel (8:13:48 PM): Hillary swats back. John, you were totally right - Saturn's children are eating themselves. Or something.
Rachel (8:13:59 PM): Maybe I mean to reference the Myrmidons. Common mistake!
Rachel (8:14:09 PM): No, actually, I was talking about Cadmus. All right, classical mythology break over. Gorgon reference pending.
Glynnis (8:14:33 PM): Throw down
Rachel (8:15:00 PM): Hecklers! Wow, they really are in Vegas!
Glynnis (8:15:01 PM): Hmm, people are catcalling from the crowd.
Rachel (8:16:10 PM): Wow, CNN doesn't have someone to hush them? That went on for a while. Surprising.
Glynnis (8:16:54 PM): Wow - okay, now John Edwards. He just called Hillary corrupt!
Rachel (8:16:56 PM): Edwards: "She's defending a system that's corrupt" - ouch.
Rachel (8:17:15 PM): Once again, Hillary is getting most of the airtime because she gets to defend against all of the attacks.
Glynnis (8:17:31 PM): Wolf is trying to calm the crowd.
Rachel (8:17:34 PM): "When somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope it's accurate and not out of the Republican playbook."
Rachel (8:18:04 PM): WOW. That is closest we've come to open acknowledgment of attack politics. CALLING THEM ON IT! And then for good measure she notes that Edwards wasn't even in favor of universal health care in 2004 — but she's glad he changed his mind. Translation: He was against it before he was for it!
Rachel (8:18:13 PM): Oh Biden, come in and make peace!
Glynnis (8:18:23 PM): Joe [Biden} save us!!!
Glynnis (8:18:54 PM): Joe says we don't care...it's all about the suburban drug dealers and mortgages.
Glynnis (8:19:03 PM): Ah, a voice of reason.
Glynnis (8:19:08 PM): And humor.
Rachel (8:19:08 PM) [Folks, Glynnis is a Biden fan. She likeys.]
Glynnis (8:19:25 PM): Joe looks kind of tired.
Rachel (8:19:58 PM): Joe Biden is running for president too, he'd like to remind you!
Glynnis (8:20:01 PM): Who among us knows what they're doing? says Joe. Time, says Wolf. Joe, gets the laugh.
Rachel (8:20:18 PM): Wolf keeps reassuring them all that they'll have time - then John Roberts heads in and asks Clinton.
Glynnis (8:20:26 PM): John Roberts is a handsome fellow.
Rachel (8:20:36 PM): Glynnis, can we just agree that John Roberts is every bit as yummy as he was on the New Music?
Rachel (8:20:41 PM): Ha - great minds think alike!
Rachel (8:20:49 PM): (Er, sorry John Roberts! We respect you! Great question!)
Glynnis (8:21:18 PM): John Roberts says if you can change your mind Edwards, why can't Hillary?
Glynnis (8:21:42 PM): According to Edwards, she's been changing her mind more frequently and recently.
Glynnis (8:22:24 PM): John Edwards' eyes match the backdrop.
Rachel (8:22:24 PM): John Edwards is pissed.
Glynnis (8:24:19 PM): Ah, Chris Dodd. He says: There is a shrillness to the debate. The question is where is Kucinich
Rachel (8:24:20 PM): By the way, I'm Bill Richardson, I'm governor of New Mexico....Good lord, 24 minutes before he gets a crack.
Rachel (8:24:39 PM): It's seems that Barack wants to start a generational war...all I want to do is give peace a chance....and be vice-president...
Rachel (8:25:00 PM): Lukewarm applause for Richardson though. Glynnis (8:25:19 PM): Richardson wants to sing Kumbaya
Rachel (8:25:27 PM): "Let's stop this mudslinging, let's stop this going after each other on character and on trust..." Well, he does have a point. This will come back to haunt the Dems in spades this time next year. Well, er, this time next year minus a few weeks. HOLY MOLY, the election is under a year away!
Rachel (8:25:42 PM): Wolf: "There was a little confusion thanks to Senator Edwards." Oh ho!
Rachel (8:25:55 PM): Senator Edwards: "Is that a planted question?" Wow. This dude SO does not want to be VP.
Glynnis (8:27:11 PM): Dennis Kucinich is here...he has been identified.
Rachel (8:27:21 PM): Campbell is great. Here's something: I'm looking down while editing this transcript, and I'm struck by how well-modulated her voice is. She frames and asks these questions really well. Also, hello - hot momma! (Just looked up.) I think my hormones like her.
Rachel (8:29:32 PM): Obama: "Undocumented workers don't come here to drive." Er, Obama, that's a little disingenuous. The point of the drivers' license legislation was NOT to reward illegal immigrants, nor was it ever about what they want. The whole thrust was a band-aid effort to protect Americans who were injured by illegals on the road. You're a smart guy, you know this. Saying that you'd rather "focus on solving the problem?" That is actually not too far from what HRC said in the last debate.
Glynnis (8:29:39 PM): Obama is being reasonable again...illegal aliens want to work, not drive.
Rachel (8:29:45 PM): Guys! The driver's license thing is dead!!!
Rachel (8:29:56 PM): Oh what, Obama is for it but before he was against it?
Rachel (8:30:05 PM): Obama is doing EXACTLY THE SAME THING Clinton did in the last debate.
Rachel (8:30:07 PM): Sheesh.
Rachel (8:30:20 PM): You know, they ALL owe Clinton an apology after this.
Rachel (8:30:26 PM): I take it back, the driver's license thing isn't dead. This was good to ask. Just to see them all falling all over themselves trying to answer it!
Glynnis (8:30:43 PM): Wolf is trying to be reasonable...this is the kind of question that's available for a yes or no answer...please guys!
Rachel (8:30:52 PM): Oh, come on - there is SO not a yes or no answer to THIS question!
Rachel (8:30:54 PM): Edwards: "No, but I don't accept the proposition that we're not going to have comprehensive immigration reform."
Rachel (8:30:59 PM): WOW. They are ALL variations on what Hillary said.
John (8:31:00 PM): Wolf is playing very coy, but he is dealing this gotcha question: "Yes or no, support the drivers' licenses here or not."
Glynnis (8:31:15 PM): Chris Dodd, looks better in red.
Rachel (8:31:22 PM): Dodd: The American people want clarity...and when the issues are complicated, a lack of clarity means everyone will call you a flip flopper!
Rachel (8:31:25 PM): Sorry, but on this point, everyone should be straight by now.
John (8:31:30 PM): Obama and Edwards opened the door for it last time. Welcome to the not-entirely-fair hot seat.
Rachel (8:31:39 PM): Fair enough.
Rachel (8:31:48 PM): HRC's answer: "No." Ha!
Glynnis (8:32:10 PM): This crowd likes Kucinich.
Rachel (8:32:11 PM): Kucinich nails it on the nomenclature: "There are no illegal immigrants - there are no illegal humans. They're undocumented." Frank Luntz in reverse.
Rachel (8:32:21 PM): He also wants to kill Nafta. Kucinich = Ron Paul. Ish.
Glynnis (8:32:34 PM): Kucinich wants to renegotiate NAFTA. Wolf rephrases the question.
John (8:32:50 PM): Kucinich looked tough there, not too shabby.
John (8:34:10 PM): Richardson can speak on this with an authority nobody else there can, and gets to the right answer: "It's a matter of public safety... The states have to act when the federal government doesn't act."
John (8:34:46 PM): Well, as right as you can get while still supporting this radioactive position.
John (8:35:59 PM): Dodd has a very strong answer on education: "THE most important issue." Clear as day that he means it, too.
John (8:36:48 PM): He's also rockin' the green tie again. Every day is St. Paddy's Day!
Glynnis (8:37:25 PM): Wolf wants to know if Dennis has ANY issues with Unions...this seems like a soft-ball question, and yet, Kucinich is a bit slow on the response.
Rachel (8:38:01 PM): This is a nice bit with Kucinich talking about his father — the working-class roots of the parents of these candidates is a running theme on the Democratic side (less so on the Republican side) — it's an interesting snapshot of how far their generation got to travel.
Glynnis (8:38:01 PM): Richardson: I want to be the education President!
Glynnis (8:39:30 PM): The tempo seems to be slowing down somewhat from that fiery start. Wolf is directing questions away from Hillary and Obama.
John (8:40:36 PM): Richardson is off on a laundry list of education proposals. Some very good ideas in there, but it's hard to tell too much about who he is beyond this great list. Would that that were enough.
Glynnis (8:41:41 PM): Biden is saying teachers should be judged on behavior outside of the classroom...ie, his wife attained two masters degrees.
John (8:42:18 PM): Yes, an interesting objection to the merit pay issue: who judges teachers' merit.
John (8:43:05 PM): No Child Left Behind has made the difficulties with objective measurement of achievement.
Rachel (8:43:21 PM): Pakistan question for Biden! Biden is in Musharraf AND Bhutto's fave five, you know!
Rachel (8:44:07 PM): I like that they are giving Joe Biden this platform to distinguish himself. He really is the foreign policy rock star. He will serve the next Democratic administration well. if there is one. He's a total mensch.
Rachel (8:44:34 PM): I also love the fact that at this point Biden doesn't care, he'll just say whatever the hell he's thinking. It makes debates MUCH more fun.
Glynnis (8:44:36 PM): Biden says we need a Pakistan policy not a Musharraf policy.
John (8:45:02 PM): He got a lot of time there, and said more, more coherently, about Pakistan than I have heard said in the media lately.
Rachel (8:45:20 PM): Because nobody wants the kind of Pervez-ted justice that's happening over there!
Rachel (8:45:24 PM): (Try the veal!)
John (8:46:40 PM): Richardson is no slouch on foreign policy either, and says explicitly that human rights are more important than security is Pakistan. Will be interesting to see if Hillary gets drawn in here
John (8:47:06 PM): Wolf calls him on it: Oh no you didn't!
Rachel (8:47:18 PM): "Let me get this straight: You're saying that at some points, human rights are more important than American national security?"
Rachel (8:47:19 PM): Doh.
John (8:47:30 PM): Richardson goes with it: Our strength is our values.
Rachel (8:47:44 PM): That TOTALLY screws with the Bush Administration's torture rationale.
John (8:48:46 PM): It sounds great. Wolf did not bring up Pakistan's nuclear weapons, or the Islamists in the security services.
Glynnis (8:49:24 PM): Obama fumbles a bit on this answer. But then goes on to agree that Pakistan's democracy would strengthen our safety.
Glynnis (8:49:55 PM): Basically Obama is saying yes, democracy is more important, but he takes the long way around.
John (8:50:12 PM): He started by saying they reinforce each other
Rachel (8:50:52 PM): Wolf is trying to shut him up gently.
John (8:50:54 PM): Dodd gets the question and goes back to the oath of office: "The security of the country is #1."
Glynnis (8:50:56 PM): Chris Dodd is on the Frank Rich train; how does Bush lecture Musharraf on restoring the constitution when he is walking all over ours.
Rachel (8:51:04 PM): "There's only one way into Afghanistan - and that's through Pakistan." Oh God now THAT doesn't bode well.
John (8:51:05 PM): Hillary is nodding conspicuously in the background
Rachel (8:51:13 PM): Oh! Test of wills between Wolf and Dodd! Did Dodd just say, "Hang on, Musharraf" to Blitzer? Dear God I hope so.
Rachel (8:51:33 PM): I love that Dodd doesn't care - Dodd has a memory like an elephant, you sonofabitch. He remembers what happened the first time.
Glynnis (8:52:10 PM): Hillary says that USA safety is more important...but agrees they reinforce eachother. The current bind in George Bush's fault.
John (8:52:23 PM): Hillary agrees, and goes big picture: after 9/11, Bush had a chance to start a different course.... but no.
Glynnis (8:52:35 PM): Chris Dodd in increasingly impressive in these debates.
Rachel (8:52:57 PM): Hillary has smoked this question. Way to bring the blame back to the Republicans. Keep the Dem hands clean. Well, clean-ish, at this point.
Rachel (8:53:03 PM): Kucinich: "Hello? Hello?"
John (8:53:29 PM): Richardson looks really unhappy. It is not clear why.
Glynnis (8:55:11 PM): Richardson says it's not about the numbers - one American death is too many - than proceeds to get into the numbers.
John (8:55:12 PM): Richardson is saying good things, but saying them hesitantly -- you can still see him struggling to remember his lines. That's why he looks unhappy, he is straining to recall it all.
Rachel (8:55:27 PM): HRC seems to be nodding in agreement with Richardson in places....maybe that run for veep is working. (I'm pretty sure that by now Edwards has forfeited.)
John (8:56:42 PM): Kucinich goes after the Dems in Congress, saying they should say to Bush: "We're not gonna give you another dime."
Glynnis (8:57:04 PM): Kucinich isn't dropping Pakistan. Makes the point that our presence in Iraq is contributing to Middle East destablization.
John (8:57:17 PM): This Obama guy - he's pretty smart!
Rachel (8:57:33 PM): Obama: Yes - there has been progress. But - that's not a big-picture reason. Nothing real has changed. The gov't there hasn't changed. (Hello, taking all of August off???).
Glynnis (8:58:29 PM): Obama: from very, very bad to very bad does not equal good. John (8:58:42 PM): He takes the surge question, starts by saying our troops are helping, doing a magnificent job, but we are no closer to a political solution, so the overall policy is failed. John (8:58:58 PM): He gets one of the biggest rounds of applause yet. John (9:00:07 PM): Edwards calls Kucinich "cute"! Glynnis (9:00:12 PM): Obama finally seems to be taking all the advice to heart and is trying to straddle reasonable and punchy. John (9:00:59 PM): Kucinich had shoe-horned in a reference to Edwards being a trial lawyer when talking about trade with China (product liability?). Glynnis (9:01:13 PM): Edwards is really looking like a movie star against this background. Glynnis (9:01:49 PM): Hillary has been noticeably lacking in this last bit. John (9:01:59 PM): She probably does not mind. Glynnis (9:01:59 PM): But now Wolf brings up the hubby. Glynnis (9:02:47 PM): Was Ross Perot right about Nafta? Hillary: all I can remember about that now is charts. Lukewarm applause. John (9:03:05 PM): Hillary independently making a really big deal about safety of stuff from China. John (9:03:38 PM): That's something everybody can relate to and cares a lot about. Glynnis (9:04:44 PM): Especially leading up to Christmas...maybe we should poll Santa? John (9:05:59 PM): I don't know that running against dangerous pet food can get you to the White House, but it's an important issue in my house. Glynnis (9:06:14 PM): Obama says, maybe we should actually go to China and take a look around. Glynnis (9:07:16 PM): Biden cuts to the chase: Shut it down! (opposite of "fire it up!") John (9:08:48 PM): In discussing energy policy, Obama mentions in passing that "climate change is real," and gets an un-asked-for cheer. Rachel (9:09:03 PM): "I reject the notion that we can't meet our energy challenges!" Rachel (9:09:09 PM): Obama: Politics of change! John (9:10:58 PM): Obama takes Wolf on directly: "I reject the premise!" Glynnis (9:11:15 PM): Gasp - Richardson says the energy solution may require the American people sacrificing a little bit. John (9:11:26 PM): Wolf had been framing questions as "assuming you can't do x..." John (9:11:37 PM): Obama says "we can!" Rachel (9:12:22 PM): "I'm not playing the gender card, I'm playing the winning card...people arent' attacking me because I'm a woman, they're attacking me because I'm ahead." Rachel (9:12:24 PM): Zing! John (9:12:29 PM): Campbell Brown tees up the Hilary vs. the boys question for her. Glynnis (9:12:42 PM): Hillary: people aren't attacking me because I'm a woman, they are attacking me because I ahead. Nice! But then fumbles a bit with a Truman quote. Rachel (9:12:50 PM): Oh but she shouldn't have re-used the kitchen anecdote. It was replayed all over the place.
Glynnis (9:16:17 PM): Wow - this crowd may have been shipped in from Iowa and NH...they just gave a standing ovation for the commercial break.
John (9:17:05 PM): Yes, but how many of them aren't associated with campaigns?
John (9:23:05 PM): Everyone is now seated! Cocktails will be served shortly.
Rachel (9:24:22 PM): CNN's Suzanne Malveaux pops up from the audience in brilliant blue. How many CNN correspondents does it take to...
Glynnis (9:24:47 PM): They are taking questions from the audience...first up, a three tour soldier who gets a standing ovation. But the question is, will his next tour be in Iran?
John (9:26:40 PM): Great question from the servicemember's mother in the audience: what are you people on the stage going to do NOW to show leadership and prevent war in Iran.
Glynnis (9:26:53 PM): Biden says Iran equals impeachment. But he wants to be clear, he wasn't attacking Hillary.
John (9:29:44 PM): Hillary makes her best case for her vote to deem Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group: aggressive diplomacy against Iran should be part of the way we engage with them.
John (9:32:45 PM): Edwards responds strongly here: we have seen this move before, we know how it turns out... That is to say, this is not about aggressive diplomacy, this is escalation. We must stand strong.
Glynnis (9:32:46 PM): Obama's tea with dictators schtick is a bit cold-ish.
Glynnis (9:33:40 PM): Next question: Happy Birthday, Bill Richardson! That makes him a Scorpio.
Rachel (9:33:50 PM): Ooh, tempestuous and passionate. Rawr.
Glynnis (9:34:43 PM): Richardson just brings up the extremely important issue of returning soldier's mental health...and how it's not being given the parity it deserves by our health care system.
Rachel (9:33:40 PM): Oh God is it ever. I'm surprised no one has mentioned the astonishing statistic released last week about how 1/4 of homeless in America are vets. Actually, precious little mention of Veteran's Day in this Vet's Day week, considering.
John (9:35:37 PM): Richardson is respectably emotional and moving when he's talking about wounded vets.
Glynnis (9:36:50 PM): Wolf Blitzer has an excellent way of shutting people down by soundling totally bored when he says "Thank-you, alright."
Glynnis (9:37:26 PM): Kucinich says he voted against the Patriot Act because he actually read it.
John (9:37:49 PM): Edwards uses a question from an Arab-American man in the audience about profiling to hit the usual notes about Guantanamo and torture.
Glynnis (9:38:17 PM): And then gets wild applause when he mentions "impeachment."
Glynnis (9:38:44 PM): Oh, Joe Biden, I leurve you, but not sure how "facts get in the way."
John (9:41:15 PM): Another interesting question from the audience: "Buenos noches," the questioner starts. No terrorists have come over our Southern border - what do you say about conflating immigration and terrorism?
Rachel (9:43:21 PM): Suzanne Malveux has an annoying habit of repeating, rephrasing, and dumbing down each question.
Glynnis (9:42:34 PM): Chris Dodd just rocks his response, and defuses his vote for a Mexican fence, by answering in Spanish...ay carumba!
Rachel (9:43:11 PM): Wow, did Chris Dodd just rap in Spanish? Way to go, hombre!
Glynnis (9:45:02 PM): Obama is so smooth...I bet he could have a Vegas show of some kind if this doesn't work out.
John (9:45:31 PM): "Well thank you Judy..."
Rachel (9:45:51 PM): Like CELINE DION!!! Woo, he'd look fantastic in a giant feather headdress.
Glynnis (9:48:22 PM): Hillary, social security, ad infinitum.
John (9:48:52 PM): Oh no!
Glynnis (9:49:01 PM): Hillary and Obama are in a faceoff! Standing and staring. I'm seeing the front page of tomorrow's NYTimes.
Glynnis (9:49:35 PM): Hillary does not lose her cool. Did anyone else just get a Jerry Springer flashback?
John (9:50:11 PM): Obama is pushing the issue: 6% of households are people making over $97 -- that's not the middle class, that is the upper class. Taxing their social security is not a middle class tax.
Glynnis (9:50:37 PM): Hillary defuses by agreeing with Obama's "Meet the Press" answer, which was long and inclusive, as I recall.
John (9:51:18 PM): At the break, each one leans away from the other to talk to the person on their other side. I wonder if they're still friends?
Glynnis (9:54:29 PM): Clinton has been making great use of her facetime, which has been noticeably less in this debate. She's had some great answers, most of which are going to dominate tomorrow's coverage.
Glynnis (9:56:56 PM): Joe Biden wants a dog-catcher on the Supreme Court.
Rachel (9:56:56 PM): Preferable to Scalia, hmmm?
Glynnis (10:00:33 PM): The question is would a Supreme Court nominee under your administration have to agree to uphold Roe v Wade. Thus far, everyone seems to be leaning on privacy as the main issue, but one that goes hand in hand with Roe v Wade.
Glynnis (10:01:04 PM): Except Obama, who says yes.
Rachel (10:01:34 PM): DEMS LOVE ABORTION! Prescient Newsweek cover this week — this ALL goes back to The Summer of Love.
John (10:03:46 PM): Obama invokes the long American tradition of a bi-partisan foreign policy. Anyone remember that?
John (10:06:18 PM): Hillary gets the same question, and does a reasonable job of seeming like she would at least make the effort to bring the country together.
John (10:06:21 PM): She invokes her experience running on NY and working across party lines in the Senate, and she smiles and uses broad inclusive gestures to good effect. Nicely done.
Glynnis (10:06:32 PM): Biden says that the Republicans love their children, too.
Rachel (10:07:14 PM): Is this the longest debate so far?
Rachel (10:07:20 PM): I am sort of digging this - the candidates are looser than they've ever been, and they have all said enough stage-setting stuff to allow them to jump off here and seem less careful.
Rachel (10:07:31 PM): I think they should not air the first half-hour and then come in when the candidates are nice and loose. Or something.
John (10:08:03 PM): But then you'd miss the opening fireworks!
Rachel (10:08:47 PM): Wow, Suzanne Malveaux is really dominating this bit. For this Campbell Brown left NBC? .
Rachel (10:09:14 PM): "Senator Clinton, do you prefer diamonds or pearls?" ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? Okay, BriWi and Russert, we're sorry we made fun of you for that UFO question.
Glynnis (10:09:17 PM): Diamonds or Pearls Hillary? I guess we've reached the UFO portion of the debate. But no! We're done. Phew.
Rachel (10:09:20 PM): That was the worst final question ever. Debate, fin.
Rachel (10:11:15 PM): Aaaand....postgame! Anderson Cooper's face suddenly fills the screen. JC Watts, James Carville, David Gergen — wow, two Clinton advisors, CNN? (Update: Gergen was an adviser at the Clinton White House, but also the Ford/Nixon/Reagan/first Bush White Houses. But as a counselor to Clinton, you'd think it would be worthy of note.)
Glynnis (10:11:17 PM): Gergen thinks Obama lost his fire? I thought just the opposite.
John (10:24:02 PM): I'd second Glynn's observation that Hillary made good use of her time tonight. She had some nice lines, was composed, smiled a fair bit.
John (10:24:49 PM): Whatever roughing up may have happened right there at the beginning was washed away first by Obama and Edwards stumbling on drivers' licenses and then a long, less testy debate.
Glynnis (10:25:22 PM): I agree with you John, except this debate is going to being distilled down into a few short clips tomorrow and those first few minutes are going to factor largely into that.
Rachel (10:26:12 PM): There should be a LOT of people eating crow tomorrow. The driver's license issue — made totally moot by Spitzer, which strengthens any distance placed between Hillary's last-debate gaffe and an anti-driver's license position — was a total bust.
Glynnis (10:29:02 PM): Hillary only screwed up one question in the last debate, but its relentless coverage arguably dropped her lead.
John (10:31:59 PM): Agreed. Unless there is a brief moment or two of Hillary being disagreeable right at the get-go, most of the memorable moments were pretty good for her.
John (10:36:37 PM): Obama had some good moments, but once Hillary was back on her stride, he looked fine but not especially outstanding beside her.
John (10:36:38 PM): He still had next to no facial expression
John (10:37:17 PM): Very hard to generate a lot of energy in a non-speechifying situation with a blank look on your face.
John (10:38:33 PM): Edwards - what did you think?
Glynnis (10:40:07 PM): I think Edwards is functioning as a great foil for Hillary. He is supplying the "mud" so to speak that is entirely lacking from Obama, and gives her something to react against without having to take him on directly.
Glynnis (10:40:20 PM): Otherwise, I don't tend to think about him a lot, actually.
John (10:41:29 PM): He gave some good answers, but did not cut too memorable a profile in this one.
Rachel (10:41:51 PM): I think Edwards going on the offensive is good for Obama somehow — the harsher attacks always come from Edwards but the narrative does become "Obama and Edwards." But Edwards seems driven here in these attacks, in didn't seem relaxed and genial, he seems more agitated. Contrast that with Hillary's smooth, comfortable position. That's really the thing — Hillary seemed relaxed, overall (her voice betrayed no shrillness like last debate), but Edwards seemed tightly wound.
Rachel (10:45:45 PM): Wow, this postgame show has all sorts of problems. There were some audio glitches, Anderson's clip-setups are off in places, and we're seeing hardly anything from Campbell and Roberts. Anderson just asked Campbell a question, told her to wait for the clip to answer, and then threw to Roberts. Doesn't seem to be going smoothly. Then again I'm only half-paying attention. This liveblog ain't gonna format itself.
Rachel (10:48:29 PM): David Gergen's voice is lulling me to sleep. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! This blog is made of asbestos. Goodnight!