Liveblog! Final Dem Debate, Final Shot For Hil (Plus — Baseball!)

Hello, and welcome to Iowa for Round Two of the Des Moines Register debates. Today: The Dems, in what is being billed as Hillary's Last Stand (in Iowa). Can she recover from the Obama onslaught? Can she recover from Bill on the campaign trail? CAN SHE RECOVER FROM OPRAH? This is what people are really looking at here. Clinton's going to need to be in top form today, likeable yet authoritative, with a continued emphasis on experience — hers, and the lack of it in certain others. Meanwhile, Obama is looking to consolidate himself and his message: Politics of change. New ways of doing business in Washington. Clinton is bad. Meanwhile there are others: Edwards, who must HATE being forever in the "others" category; Dodd and Biden, Richardson and Kucini...oops. We'll miss your big ears and hot wife, little guy. (And big heart, aw!). Barely three weeks until the Iowa caucus (caucus? They don't even KNOW us!), this debate could be a game-changer, or it could be a mid-afternoon snooze that has to compete with the excitement of the Mitchell report and steroid-engorged athletes. We won't know until we liveblog it, so without further ado meet today's HuffPo Debate Liveblog Team: HuffPo liveblog mainstays Glynnis MacNicol and communications analyst John Neffinger, plus HuffPo politics staffers Jason Linkins and Will Thomas and your trusty moderator, Rachel Sklar (me!). We're working on how to get multi-pictures but in the meantime find Jason here and Will here. Pretty! Now, without further ado, apparently there's a debate going on. Join!

1:52 PM
Jason: What do you want to bet that we cut to this baseball
John: We are going to be liveblogging the debate and the Mitchell report simultaneously
Jason: I know.
John: I saw a list leaked
Jason: Albert Pujols is juiced!
John: Varitek, man. (UPDATE: Varitek was not mentioned in the Mitchell report.)
Yeah, lots of HOFers
Jason: Selig is gonna get drawn and quartered.
If more Cardinals end up on that list, we gotta put Will Leitch on suicide watch.
John: Well it's hard to say he doesn't have it coming
You a cards fan?
Jason: Yep.
We didn't have the Nationals growing up, so I had to go afield to choose my team.
John: Sox fan myself. Tek is the spiritual core of both championship teams.
Jason: My brother backed the Indians.
John: Sure, he's a catcher, and he was never a dominant slugger, but still. Dagger in the heart of Red Sox nation.
Jason: Yeah...Varitek. That's heavy.
Damon's on the list, too, I've heard.
John: Oh yes . But he is dead to us.
Jason: Of course!
John: Dykstra too, speaking of Red Sox history.
Jason: Dykstra's on the list! Holy moley.
John: Yeah. nails n Juice.
Jason: Yaz was clean, right?
John: One hopes, but who knows. What about Ruth?
Jason: We can still be fond of Stan Musial, I hope.
John: So right now this is preempting the debate on MSNBC...
Jason: It seems to be doing the same thing on CNN, too.
John: Yeah. We can all now pine for the virtuous days when ballplayers just drank like fish and slept with anything that moved.
Jason: OK. CNN is kicking in.

Rachel: Okay! Batter up. We're switching fields now, boys. Right now it's happening on CNN, not MSNBC. Pandering to the baseball vote!
Jason: I hope the Dem candidates treat Washburn better than the GOPers did yesterday.
Rachel: They will. Can you IMAGINE Obama pulling a Fred Thompson? "I refuse to answer the question! Hmph!"
Glynnis: Okay! I'm getting a stream!
Jason: She seems to be lit more brightly today, as well.
John: Yeah, there is color in their cheeks
Glynnis: Oh wow. They've weeded out the weak ones. They've streamlined! No Kucinich or Gravel.
Rachel: God, is Gravel still IN this race? I have not heard a peep. Even on YouTube. OK, here we go!
Jason: QUESTION: Economy. Will it be a priority in your admin to balance the budget every year? How?
2:04 PM
John: Woah! Fox has the voter feedback meter right on the screen.
Rachel: They did yesterday too. A Frank Luntz brainchild. Of course: Style over substance!
Jason: Obama: Key component, end the war in Iraq. Overcome special interests.
John: Obama is already off the charts!
Jason: Bill Richardson: Balanced budgets are a major priority. But Rich. wants a line item veto. UNCONSTITUTIONAL!.
John: Richardson: Well, as a Governor... this is what I would do as President... This man is an automaton.
2:06 PM
Jason: He references "the Clinton years." KEEP ME IN MIND FOR VEEP!
Joe Biden says he's got a cold. Thanks a lot, Iowa!
Glynnis: I think Joe Biden and Bill Richardson are wearing the same tie.
Jason: Dodd reminds Richardson that state governments are different than the Federal government.
Rachel: Welcome to Will Thomas, who joins us!
Jason: Hi Will Thomas!
John: Edwards' body language is all over the place. He is smiling, but wiggling around instead of standing up straight, and blinking in flurries.
Jason: Hillary: "If we go back to the 1990s, you'll recall there was a great economy. I'm going to use the same policies as whoever was running things back then...who was that, again? Oh well, not important."
John: Clinton reminds us that Clintons are good at this fiscal discipline stuff.
Jason: They do enjoy discipline. Wonder what their safe word is?
Richardson: I will welcome the companies of the FUTURE!
John: The Fox-O-Meter reacts very well to Richardson pointing out how much money is being spent on Iraq instead of domestic priorities
John: As vs. Biden, who talked about specific and to most people obscure weapons programs to cut - he was flexing, Duncan Hunter style
Jason: Edwards assails the wealthy and bog corporations for their tax breaks. ENDLESS CLASS WAR.
Clinton: We are standing on a trap door.
Rachel: Hillary is poised and prepared as usual. But that won't do much for her here - she really needs to shine.
Carolyn Washburn seems that much more confident today. Dems are less scary than Republicans.
Jason: QUESTION: If we assume that we will have some long-term military expenses w/r/t Iraq, how will you pay for your programs?
Glynnis: Hillary looks tired to me.
Jason: First substantive, direct question on Iraq in two days. Please note.
Rachel: Noted.
John: Biden is back on cutting weapons systems.
Rachel: He would fundamentally change Republican priorities of only rewarding the wealthy. Did anyone say that yesterday????
Jason: Obama: I have stipulated where the money will come from to pay for everything we've proposed.
Rachel: Barack is repeating a tie. He wore the candy-cane tie a few debates ago.
John: It's a classic!
Glynnis: He's in the Christmas spirit.
Rachel: Note that the "veterans coming back with mental health problems and trauma" meme is finally making it into the popular discourse. The emphasis being "mental health" - that is a new focus.
Jason: Richardson: Cut missile systems, procurement reform. But we need more troops and better care for them.
John: Richardson does well with that. He somehow avoids saying "Here's what I would do."
Glynnis: The energy level of this debate is much lower than the prime time ones and Richardson's tone and manner seem much better suited to it.
Rachel: Yes - I think a lot of that has to do with the PBS feel
This is the Iowa register - not the CNN YouTube Debate To Revolutionize All Debates!™

Jason: QUESTION: China. Often called the US's Banker. (Like yesterday). How will we deal with them?
Jason: OH GOD. TOYS.
Rachel:Oh my God China will own us all. Or Russia. Or Google.
It's like rock, paper scissors. How depressing.
John: Interesting Fox-o-meter action on Richardson's answer: when he discusses burma and human rights, "liberals" love it and moderates don't give a hoot... when he talks about toys, liberals still care but moderates dig him even more.
Rachel: Grammar police: Dodd misused the word "desirous."
Jason: QUESTION: How do we change entitlements in the future?
John: Dodd is all fire and brimstone all the time. Hitting good points, but stuck in one gear as usual.
Rachel: Hillary is pulling a Romney here a bit - she just smiled through talking about the long-term problems with medicare and social security.
Glynnis: I fear we will not be seeing much more of Dodd after Jan 3.
Rachel: He'll be involved in some capacity. He'll endorse someone and stump away. I'd lose Dodd before Biden.
John: Glynn, I think you're on to something with Hillary - the circles under her eyes are especially prominent today.
Rachel: But - don't forget that this is low-fi - the GOP candidates looked worse for wear yesterday too.,
No one has that TV glow.
(And Hillary's makeup is usually excellent.)
Obama also looks tired.
Probably they are.
Jason: Dodd's really strong on education issues.
2:22 PM
Glynnis: At least Biden and Richardson are gunning for a some sort of position.
Jason: Biden's a foriegn policy whiz...knows the names and dates and stats and where the money is going.
John: Obama: We're all fat!
Glynnis: I think Hillary should milk the underdog status. Everyone loves a comeback kid.
Jason: Obama: You all's got to lose some weight!
John: Or at least, other Americans are
Jason: Obama vs. Huckabee on THE BIGGEST LOSER.
Rachel: "...unless we change how business is done in Washington!" Obama has a theme/meme, and he's hammering away at it. It's how he keeps hammering at Hillary.
2:24 PM
I agree Glynn. But she just doesn't wear the underdog mantle very well. She can't help it; she still carries herself like a frontrunner.
John: In case anyone is wondering, the Fox-o-meter luuurves Obama. Moderates and liberals digging on him muchly.
Rachel: Hillary NEEDS a soundbite here. An "I'm your girl" or something.
Will: Free statement: Obama and Edwards
Jason: Bill Clinton's mantra in 1992: "Change." Obama's straight usurped that. The way Bill usurped a lot of oppo messages/platforms. Privately, he must respect Barack's game.
Rachel: Obama cites CNN: Planet in peril!
2:25 PM Will: Forget the planet; I'm waiting for someone to mention steroids
Rachel: When Obama lays out that "that's the kind of campaign I've tried to run" - you really do realize that he's been remarkably consistent on that message.
Jason: Woah! Big eye flare from Edwards!
Jason: Edwards: Fight! Rise up!.
John: Leave it better than we left it!
Jason: Messed up his last line.
Rachel:Washburn lets him fix it up. Nice exchange there. She knows when to be flexible as a moderator. She's very good! A lot more effective when there isn't that antagonistic vibe.
Jason: QUESTION: Human right violations w/ trading partners. What to do?
Biden would bake in human rights metrics into trade agreements.
Will: Richardson steps it up: sanctions for human rights violators
Jason: Richardson loves him some human rights. If you recall, they are, to him, more important than national security.
Dodd: Human rights and security are the same issue. Part of the seamless conduct of our foreign policy.

2:30 PM
Edwards: We got "millions of dangerous Chinese toys!" Edwards reminds us that his father worked in a mill.
Jason: QUESTION: NAFTA: M/f/k?
Clinton will review every trade agreement. Clinton: we don't want to be the trade patsies of the world.
John: Interesting moment there seeing Obama and Edwards do their free statements head to head. Obama did not take the chance to address the audience warmly, he just kept orating about challenges needing to be met. No smile. That works fine in response to a question about a challenge, but... Edwards, by contrast, looks warmly at the camera and says "We've got to fight!" a plea for us to come together and show courage against powerful interests. Even shaking his silly half-fist, he got better instant ratings than Obama for the first time today.
Jason: Clinton: we don't want to be the trade patsies of the world.
John: Hillary does not look happy to be there.
Rachel: Shout-out to Canada, wooo!
Jason: To be fair, it was a shout out to Mexico, too.
John: She has looked supremely comfortable in her skin up there in previous debates. Today she seem to be straining to make points.
Rachel: Habeus Corpus? But they don't even KNOW us!
Will: No reference to the Canadian president this time either
Rachel: Wow, that's the only case where that actually works.\
Jason: Dodd passed some legislation on this just last night! Snap!
Rachel: Huckabee is SO JEALOUS he didn't think of that hymn.
Jason: Huckabee's too busy carbon dating gay sex back to 1968.
Jason: Nice.
Rachel: Richardson again talking about the plight of returning vets, and PTSD and mental issues.
Go Richardson.

2:35 PM
John: Richardson uses his free time to talk about vets' mental health again.
Glynnis: This debate is showcasing his strengths far more than past ones have.
Jason: QUESTION: Energy independence. Costs and negative impacts. How will you turn it into a benefit for the economy.
John: It's like he's not running for president anymore, he's just using the attention to try to do some good.
Glynnis: If by "good" you mean running for VP.
Jason: I know one group of Americans where Richardson is polling off the charts: People who want Horatio Sanz to return to Saturday Night Live.
Rachel: Ha. I would LOVE to see Richardson as Elton John!
Jason: Richardson will lead an energy revolution.
Dodd says he is the only candidate that advocates a corporate carbon tax.
John: Interesting FoxOmeter action here - liberals love Richardson's talk about energy innovation. Moderates are much less moved.
Jason: Strong words from Dodd. No kicking the can down the road.
2:39 PM Hillary wants the cap and trade. Auction permits. "Cushion the costs on American consumers"
Rachel: Didn't someone make a joke about sending Hillary into space at one GOP debate?
2:40 PM Will: Energy reform is the new American patriotism!
Jason: Hillary steals the "
lifts us up" line...and rolls her eyes when she says it!
John: And goes on to this one: Reaching for the stars, right here on earth.
Jason: Obama mispronounces Sierra Club. But he talks up his Sister Soulja moment in front of the Detroit automakers.
Now Edwards is "rising up."
Glynnis: Edwards: "Ask America to be patriotic about something other than war." That's a good line.
Jason: Clinton offers to raise her hands for global warming! Diss!
Rachel: Hillary: "Carolyn, do you want to get us to raise our hands on global warming?" Ha! This is Hillary's moment. She NEEDED a good-natured soundbite to come out of this, and she just scored one.
Also speaking for the group that they are all in favor of dealing with it - smart. In one move, she re-established Dem unity and established herself as spokesperson.
John: Yes, that was a good warm moment for her.
Jason: QUESTION: The Senate passed some subsidy program yesterday, how would you Senators have voted for it?
Jason: Obama will end farm subsidies in Manhattan.
John: Obama is talking about capping farm subsidies, but flexing some real knowledge here, contrasting family farms with Fortune 500 and Manhattan-based farmers who currently get subsidies.
Jason: Biden: Empty farms in the Midwest. Biden seems to think he voted on something today.
As does Clinton...were they in Washington today?
Rachel: Yep. The Senators had a vote this morning. Hmmm, wonder how they got to Iowa lickety-split...carbon footprint anyone? Hope they at least shared a plane.
Rachel: Hillary: Says that someone - Reid I think - has been working like...a TROJAN? Like a horse? Or condom? Either way, odd analogy. Semi-hot, though.
Glynnis: As least we can assume they know what the Cuban Missile Crisis is.
Will: Hillary's perking up
Jason: She's trying to take back the "change."
Rachel: Hillary usurps the "change" meme here.
Jinx buy me a coke!
"Stand up for me and I'll stand up for you - during this campaign and when I'm in the White House." Good final line.
John: Hillary uses her free statement to smile and address the audience directly. Big warm smile there.
Jason: That was probably the best of all of these "personal statements."
John: Dodd is doing his now. His brow is still furrowed. Maybe he was born that way..?
Rachel: Dodd really does have an impressive record.
Jason: Contrast that with Dodd--biography-heavy. "We ask for your vote." As opposed to "Come caucus for me!"
QUESTION: Missed it.
John: Me too.
Jason: Health care? Child care? Education?
John: Edwards is talking about universal pre-K
Will: We're asking for the best education systems in the world
Will: which, apparently, is in Iowa according to Edwards
John: Edwards is blinking less, but still not standing up straight. He shugs his shoulders over something or other every sentence or two. This is important because he is not projecting any personal strength as a leader non-verbally.
John: Ok, not not any, but he undermines himself with all of his squirming.
Richardson with a great answer on education. Knows his stuff.
Jason: Richardson notes the obstacles to achievement gaps for NCLB: Native Americans, Hispanics...and how it affects his state.
My wife (a special ed teacher) would have given Bill R. a big ol' "woot!"
Obama says it takes a village.
John: Obama talking about turning off the TV set and getting our kids involved in education at home. Yay good parenting!
Breaking news - Varitek is not mentioned in the Mitchell report! Red Sox nation heaves a sigh of relief.
Jason: Hillary HAS done a lot of work in education reform. cf. "When They Were Young", NYMag. That's an area of "experience" that the others cannot degrade.
Good news for Varitek fans.

2:58 PM
QUESTION: What realistically do you believe you can accomplish in one year?
Obama: Tell the joint chiefs to end the Iraq War. "You have a new mission." He will review EVERY EXECUTIVE ORDER from Bush.
John: Wow. Obama is going to review all of George Bush's executive orders. Makes sense, but it is dramatic to hear him say he will charge his Attorney General with doing so. Roll it back!
Jason: Biden: He will tell the Joint Chiefs: "Implement the Biden Plan." Then he'll leave the room and remember that he hasn't told them what the Biden plan is. He'll go back in and tell them. It will be a funny moment.
Will: Richardson is going to follow the Constitution. At least for the first year.
John: This is quite a contrast with what the GOPers had to say yesterday about what they would do with their first years (i.e. not much). There is some change gonna come if a Democrat gets in there.
Jason: After that, though: HELL WITH THE LID OFF!
Dodd will change the nature of our conversation.
John: Okay, Biden and Obama had a lot of things they wanted to do. Richardson and Dodd will end the war, but otherwise it's more thematic. Lots of talking.
Glynnis: Edwards says: let's get real about how much will actually get done!
Jason: Clinton: "The era of cowboy diplomacy is over."
John: Edwards is going to end the war and then take back the country from corporate greed.
Glynnis: Hillary is basically going to do all the things everyone else said...but better!
John: Clinton would end Bush's war on science. She is smiling and talking specifics. The FoxOmeter gives her the best marks of the night, off the charts.
Jason: QUESTION: Hillary: are you going to be a crazy, secretive President?
Will: Wow. She got the Giuliani question. That's harsh.
Jason: "I've learned my lesson. I will use the internet. There will be sunlight."

Jason: QUESTION:Washburn is reeling off a laundry list of Biden gaffes: Obama is clean and articulate etc.
John: Owch.
Rachel: Yikes to Biden question! Welcome to Ouchville, population him!
3:07 PM John: His demeanor in responding to this question suggests he has been a bad boy.
Jason: I think he's doing the best he can with this question...but there's a lot of stammer.
Rachel: This is a wonderful opportunity for Biden, to address the fact that these are blips, and not representative of his genuine record of public service.
Glynnis: I'm holding my breath hoping he makes it through this answer without any gaffes.
Rachel: Wow! A hear hear for Joe Biden from everyone!!! AW!
3:08 PM Jason: And they clap!
John: WOW - a lot of unsolicited support for Joe from across the panel!
Rachel: Hillary, Obama - everyone's on board! EVERYONE LOVES JOE!
John: Obama takes the lead in defending him here.
Rachel: Hillary led the hear hears, I think. Very nice moment for all though.
Jason: Chris Matthews had better note the Dem unity here!
OK. So, I missed this question. because I was moved by the display of niceness!
John: Edwards fights the power and wins.
Sayeth he.
Rachel: Yes, he's talking about his track record as a lawyer, spinning it as fighting AGAINST corporate greedsters. Nice observation he makes about how, let's face it, everyone on the stage will be okay if they don't get the nomination - all Americans don't enjoy such security.

Jason: QUESTION: Dodd: Are you motivated to restore your family's good name? So melodramatic.
John: This is a story not that many voters know.
Will: I think Dodd deserves credit for the fact that toughest gotcha question he faces is about his father's career
Jason: Agreed.
Glynnis: This is very late in the day to be focusing on Dodd's father.
Jason: QUESTION: Richardson, your energy secretary credentials. Wen Ho Lee.
John: Carolyn is just too timid to raise the Muppet issue.
Jason: Richardson: "I've made a lot of gaffes...and I'm glad you didn't raise them." Then he ticks off his accomplishments.

3:13 PM
Jason: QUESTION: Obama: you got a lot of Clinton advisers on foreign policy.
Rachel: "Hillary, I'm looking forwrad to you advising me as well!" Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Nicely done, Obama!
Jason: Ha...great line.
And this festival of conviviality continues.
Rachel: "Since 9/11 we've had a president who essentially fed us a politics of fear."
Glynnis: Wow - that is the first time I've really seen Obama take charge in the presence of Hillary. Somehow convincing.
Jason: Time is getting short!
QUESTION: Will you use signing statements?
Will: Signing statements? Anyone?
Jason: Clinton: Not like Bush used them!
John: Obama does a nice unity thing here: "There are a lot of people even in the first Bush administration who understand the military - and I revere what our military does - is only one part of our power..." This guy is good.
Jason: Edwards: No signing statements. No unitary executive run amok.
John: Edwards gets off the Foxometer charts himself saying "We don't have a king in the U S of A"

3:16 PM
Jason: QUESTION: Your New Year's resolution.
Yesterday, this question was deployed to provoke internecine fights. Today, it's maintaining the unity.
John: Oh, Hillary. "My New Year's resolution is multi-part, as you might guess..." Must you be such a democrat?
Rachel: Hillary is rambling a bit about her resolutions here.
Jason: Edwards...doesn't answer.
Will: Edwards: To remember in the midst of Presidential hooplah, remember that a child will go to bed hungry. That implies to me that he usually forgets this.
John: Edwards was kinda doing the Christmas spirit thing - somewhere in America tonight a child will go to bed hungry... God bless us every one.
Jason: Ha! Dodd wants people to caucus. Like Trojans!
Richardson wants Congress and the pres to end their "dysfunctional relationship." And for Dems to "not tear each other down."
Rachel: Caucus and congress. Rawr.
John: And to lose weight.
Jason: Biden: Remember where you came from.
Rachel: Aw. Love Biden. He really is a mensch. "Remember where you came from."
John: Obama: "I want to remind myself this is not about me, what I am doing." That's a lot of personal pronouns.
Rachel: Obama wants to "be a better father, be a better's an enormous strain on the family." You can really see how much this affects him. He seems more torn than others about the time he has to spend on the campaign trail.
Jason: Obama bought a Christmas tree. OKAY? Not a RAMADAN TREE! NO MADRASSAS!

QUESTION: Say something to Iowa? Was that it?
Will: What have you learned from Iowa (whatever that means).
Jason: Hillary probably learned to keep some petty cash on hand!
Ha! Richardson likes Iowans because they like underdogs.
Will: Richardson gets another laugh! If only this were June 2007
John: They are all saying nice, warm personal things about Iowans here. Nicely done.
Rachel: Macocada? Didn't George Allen get in trouble for saying that?
Jason: Biden: Iowa is the cornerstone of democracy itself.
Rachel: "The Iowa caucus gives caucusgoers a chance to lift the hood and kick the tires and take us out for a test drive." Hottest thing Obama has EVER said.
Will: I'd like to take Chris Dodd for a test drive.
3:25 PM John: Oh!! Wait! The tiniest hint of a smile fought its way onto Obama's face right there at the end on this question! Talking about the 'core decency of the American people.' That was his first actual smile in, oh, probably two or three debates now.
Jason: Biden is on the record as wanting to take Elizabeth Kucinich out for a test drive.
Rachel: Who wouldn't, really. Hell, even I do.

3:31 PM
Jason: Well...that was the last debate of 2007.
John: Fox News is complaining that no one discussed immigration.
Rachel: On CNN they've got Candy Crowley, John King and Jessica Yellin. Yellin like a felon!
Will: Blitzer wants to talk about nothing but change
John: Anybody see any significant movement here today?
John: Go Jessica! She's a smartie. (Ed. Disclosure: They're buds.)
Will: It seems like a role reversal between Clinton and Obama. She's focusing more on the message, while he's really flexed his policy knowledge.
Rachel: This is what I saw, that was different than the GOP: There were several moments of Dem unification here.
Rachel: Coming together for Joe Biden, Hil being spokesperson on the environment, even Obama joking that he'd consult with everyone.
The upshot was, we're a team.
Jason: Right. A much-needed step away from intra-party discord.
Rachel: That is a good underlying message to end the 2007 debate series on. It's very distinct from the GOP message - and, it's one the Dems need.
Jason: Today's big winner: Jason Varitek!
Will: Today's loser: Dennis Kucinich
Shameless punditry: who snagged the DM Register nomination after this?
John: Hillary had some warm moments today, but she didn't hit anything particularly hard. She seemed tired today. Obama looked strong and resolute and delivered his points well. Edwards still doesn't look like a commander in chief, but he was warm and personable and drove home his point that he is all about fighting the power.
Rachel: It's funny, on CNN Candy Crowley just talked about Hillary trying to "humanize" herself in a new way and calling her a "new" Hillary, but I found her to be very much consistent with how she has been. The 'losing weight' resolution seemed very much in character. I think she started out tensed but seem to warm and relax as she proceeded. And, you know, they ALL looked tired.
3:37 PM Jason: I think Hillary and Barack both benefited form the fact that the moderator didn't step them out on stage from jump street and incite a full on geek show. These debates have been a taste of what it looks like when media elites aren't running the show, managing their storylines.
Rachel: Well, I always hesitate to breezily dismiss with the "media elites" meme, since I don't think that these debates have been about that, even if that has occurred in part. But I agree that this debate was different. It was a better form for the Dems - that is, for the candidates themselves - but less so for the GOP. The inability to cross-engage makes for a less interesting event, less combative, less sparks. But certainly more dignified and civil.
John: It is a valid point about immigration. This is not an issue dems should be shying away from. It would have said a lot about them understanding this is a real priority if they had raised it even though they were not asked about it directly.
Rachel:They've got three weeks to busts their ass in Iowa and see if they can move the needle. Good luck to 'em! And to you - we'll see you back here in 2008 for more liveblogging fun. Happy Holidays!