01/16/2008 06:15 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Spin from Sin City - Missed Moments from the Democratic Debate

"Hey, John, what are you still doing here?? I thought the Nevada Supreme Court took you off the Evite for this little affair, no?"

"Heh, heh. No, no, Hillary, that was Dennis. Very cute."

All kidding aside, last night, Democrats (and any other voters who hadn't surfed over to American Idol) finally saw the field pared down to the three contenders. Road-weary and afraid to worsen a negative week of campaigning that has threatened to forge a rift of ill will within the heretofore "we've-got-this-baby-in-the-bag" Democratic party, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards assembled in Las Vegas to exchange pleasantries. Let's review a few of the more curious and overlooked moments, shall we?

Hillary, let's talk legislative basics. If you don't want to see a bill become law, probably best not to vote for it. When asked whether you regretted voting for the 2001 bankruptcy bill that made it harder for individuals to seek bankruptcy protection, you answered: "Sure, I do [regret voting for it]. It never became law, as you know. It got tied up. It was a bill that had some things I agreed with and other things I didn't agree with, and I was happy that it never became law." (Emphasis added for maximum attention to ridiculousness). Do not pass "Go," do not collect $200. The cynic in me might think that it was a vote reluctantly cast to appease her banking industry supporters, but that in her heart she hoped would not pass. But none of our elected leaders would do such a thing, right? Right?

Barack, back to the drawing board with your "greatest weakness" answer. Was "being too disorganized" the best answer you and your prep guys came up with? You said, "I need to have good people in place who can make sure that systems run." If that was a blind quote, I'd have immediately thought of our current fearless leader. Not the parallel I'd want to draw. Just sayin'. And, I know we're trying to be civil here, but how did you miss the obvious chance for laughs and a good-natured poke at Hillary when the candidates were each asked when they made the tough decision to run for president. "Well, some would say kindergarten. (pause for riotous laughter.) No, seriously though. . ." That was teed up perfectly, how did you miss it?

John, not your best night with numbers tonight. First, regarding campaign finance, you began your answer by stating, "And let me start it by saying the obvious, which is, all three of us have raised a great deal of money in this campaign. . . ." John, I've written about your money issues before, and that might be true in the abstract, but you make it sound as if you're competitive with your Democratic competitors on fundraising, which simply ain't true. We'll find out more when the final 2007 numbers are released at the end of January, but as of the third quarter of last year, your $30 million raised ($12 million cash on hand) lagged behind Senators Obama ($80mm total, $36mm cash on hand) and Clinton ($90mm total, $50mm cash on hand). We can continue to debate the relative merits of money in politics another time, but there are two tiers here, and you're in the lower one. Perhaps after the debate you could hit the casinos and try to turn that $12 million into some serious coin. Then we'll talk.

Second, John, I particularly enjoyed your attempt to out-Hillary Hillary. After another one of Hillary's "35 years of awesomeness" (three "35 years" mentions tonight alone!), you rejoined, "I think my greatest strength is that for 54 years I've been fighting with ever fiber in my being." Take that, Hillary! Edwards has been fighting since exiting the womb. Impressive. And why stop there? What about tacking on an extra 9 months of fighting since conception!

As the candidates waded into a question about gun control, Obama had a mini Mitt moment: "You've got the tradition of lawful gun ownership, that all of us saw, as we travel around rural parts of the country. And it is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt, fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot." Now I know it doesn't look so odd in print, but in the context of a gun discussion, was I the only one thinking that Barack was celebrating our storied American tradition of bagging a bass with a .38? Hunter Thompson would be proud.

If Obama's most- (some might say over-) used words are "hope" and "change," then Edwards' has to be "mill." (Four mentions tonight!) As in, "I was born in a mill," "I'm the sonuva mill worker," "I met (insert resident of key primary state), who worked in a mill for 33 years," and "No, my house is not bigger than a mill." (Caveat: some "mill" quotes may be fabricated). Yes, lots of mills where you're from, John. Duly noted.

Thanks for a pleasant night, you three. Let's make this love thing last.