Another weekend, another debate. And you know what? No more candidate-by-candidate rundowns. Waste of time. Everybody knows this nomination is coming down to one of three people: Dodd, Kucinich, or Gravel.
Edwards - Clearly bumfuzzled. The attack dog of a couple of weeks ago was Mr. Hope And Optimism today. He's to the point of throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. Still coming off as very stage-managed and too slick by half. Still, the guy has been a constant presence in Iowa since 2004. Edwards is rolling the dice by concentrating all of his efforts in the early primaries and the outcome could reshape how we elect Presidents in this country. I can see a scenario in which Edwards wins Iowa and New Hampshire, stumbles in South Carolina against Obama, and then is buried on "Monster Tuesday" by Hillary and/or Obama. Can you imagine a 2012 election in which Iowa and New Hampshire no longer matter? We're moving closer and closer to a national Presidential primary, I think.
Oh...anyway...back to the debate, Edwards was ineffective today. Another missed opportunity, speaking of which...
Obama - Got his sea legs back a little today. Sure, he had to stand back and watch in silence as the rest of the candidates piled on him for the first ten minutes. But the upside of that is...hey, they were talking about him for the first ten minutes. The entire first segment of the debate was "Let's talk about Obama vs. Hillary." Which is great for Obama. That's how he wants to frame this whole run-up to the primaries. However, the "you're great...no you're great" vibe in this debate found Obama unwilling to draw sharp distinctions between himself and Hillary. Again, a missed opportunity.
Hillary - Her performance was like that of a basketball team with a ten-point lead late in the game that executes a flawless possession but doesn't score. She protected her lead and ran the clock down a little bit. I swear, if she could project a little warmth and empathy, Hillary might be the best performer at these kind of debates I've ever seen (a title currently held by her husband). Her poise is absolutely unshakable, she never hems-and-haws or stalls, and she never backs down. I would've bet you anything three months ago that Obama would've closed this race up to "pick 'em" status by this point...but Hillary's formidable, man. It's her nomination to lose.
And one more time: Whoever wins...please, Joe Biden for Secretary of State.
[Hillary/Obama pic courtesy of AP]