Continuing on ABC tonight, the top four Democratic contenders will meet. Barack Obama, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson are now on stage.
After a majority of the new polls show Obama leading in New Hampshire, Clinton needs to do something to get back into the lead.
The first question is about nuclear terrorism. Obama says that if Osama Bin Laden is known to be in Pakistan (with hard intelligence), he would go in after him. When Gibson points out that this sounds a lot like the Bush doctrine (will history books now call it this?), Obama points out it is different because of the intelligence we would have.
Quick question (from me to you): with Richardson supposedly making a deal with Obama in Iowa for support on the second-choice situation, is Richardson hedging his bets now thinking that he could be Obama's VP? Think about it, youth and change candidate would do well to have a VP with experience (remind anyone of the current situation we have now?).
I know it is early on, but there seems to be no energy in the room. Clinton just went on for four minutes about what she thinks about the hypothetical Pakistan question, and it looked like Obama, Richardson and Edwards were zoning out as much as I was.
What would you do the day after a nuclear weapon goes off in the US, and what what should we change to eliminate the threat? Clinton wishes we would have a very high level of commitment to marshaling our resources for better homeland security. All of their responses so far seem vaguely familiar to what we are currently doing (another Bush doctrine?).
Gibson points out how voters in Iowa wanted change, and then asks Clinton what questions remain about Obama that need to be answered. Clinton points out that all the Democrats are all for change, and that New Hampshire voters are very independent. She says that Obama flipped on health care issues, and that is relevant when looking for a president we can count on.
Obama says that the AP was quoting Clinton's folks, and that he has never flopped on the health care issue, and very nicely lays out what he has said, and the philosophical differences he has on this topic with Edwards and Clinton. He then goes on to point out that (regarding social security), he (and Edwards) have been specific in their plans, and that a difference in opinion between the two does not mean that he does not have a plan.
Clinton comes back pointing out specific issues where Obama says one thing and has voted another way. He quickly jumps back to the health care issue, and stammers a little as he tries to get off this topic as soon as possible - pulling a Romney and saying that all the Democrats are more alike than different (seems like a Clinton maneuver when she was always attacked).
And Edwards comes to Obama's defense against Clinton, calling her a force of the status quo. I am sure that Obama will be happy joining with Edwards to knock her out.
I guess all of this boils down to what your definition of 'change' is.
Richardson - "I've been in hostage negotiations that were more civil than this."
Richardson makes a nice point - when did it become a bad thing to have experience and ability to lead to affect change?
Obama tries to wrap it up and go back to how the people really want change and how the government responds to what they want.
What do you think now that there are signs that the surge appears to be working? Clinton points out that the surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to do what they needed to do, and 37 soldiers dying in December was unacceptable. Richardson points out there has been no progress in Iraq, and until we deal with ending the war, we cannot affect change at home.
When questioned by Gibson about the real progress that has been made, Obama is quick to point out that he opposed the war from the start (and opposed the surge), and mentions the $1 trillion that has been spent, not including the loss of life and injury, to just arrive at a point where we were two years ago.
Just received a text message from a friend - halftime, Jacksonville Jaguars 21 Pittsburgh Steelers 7
Edwards continues on that there has been no political progress in Iraq, and that he would pull 40-50k troops out immediately. He would combat missions, and there would be no occupation.
It's commercial time. The first half has ended, and you want to bet that the Clinton campaign already has a list of issues where Obama has changed positions? Besides a few moments where she lost her temper a little, I think that this has been a very civil discussion. You can see how Obama is trying to act like the person in the lead, and adopt Clinton's old tone of challenging the Republican stand on issues instead of attacking each other.
Clinton makes a nice point that in 2000, Americans voted for the candidate they would like to have a beer with, and just liking someone more does not necessarily make a candidate better. She points out that she is an agent of change, and that being the first female president could not be more of a change.
Obama says that he already knows the Republican play book - we have seen this movie before (referencing the multitude of questions about him that the Republican candidates mentioned in the first debate).
In answering where youth should preclude someone from being president, Richardson says no and refers to Kennedy who inspired America (you can see the steam coming out of Clinton's ears because this was a nice compliment to what Obama achieved in Iowa).
Clinton - "Words are not action. And as beautifully presented and as passionately felt as they are, they are not action." Anyone think she was talking about Obama?
She then says that others on stage cannot do the job that she could.
Obama says that the American people are looking for big, not incremental, change. Says that people are looking for someone to inspire, someone who uses the words to get people elected, someone to get things done, and this is why people are responding in such large numbers.
Gibson moves them on to a question about carbon tax. After the last fifteen minutes, this topic is very anti-climatic. The energy has lowered a little - it's as if they were building to that crescendo.
What do you wish you could take back from any of the debates you have participated in?
Clinton - nothing
Richardson - favorite Supreme Court? He said Byron 'Whizzer' White before he knew he wasn't for Roe v Wade
Richardson - for teasing Clinton about her jacket
Obama - nothing
There probably wasn't a clear winner tonight, but a few things stand out
John Edwards probably did the best of everyone tonight, but it is too little too late. If there were a few more weeks ago, he may have had a chance if he could focus on Obama directly.
Clinton seemed very negative this evening. Almost everything she said was an attack toward Obama, and the manner in which she presented herself was unappealing.
Did you know that Richardson has a nice resume? Any other year, he may be higher in the polls - but he may have a real shot at the VP slot.
Obama was clearly under the gun from Clinton, but seemed to handle himself well, keeping with his themes and his inspiring words (too bad they aren't actions). ;-)
Well, it was clear that all the candidates tonight were very tired. All the candidates have been going full-tilt for the last two weeks (and longer), but the accelerated schedule between Iowa and New Hampshire has ramped everything up; there is not as much time to affect a change, so you campaign longer, and it takes a toll on you physically and mentally.
In case you didn't hear, Mitt Romney won today's Wyoming Caucus, and check out the latest numbers from Iowa to see how McCain and Obama have come from behind and appear to now be leading in New Hampshire.