Debate Scorecard

Moving Up:

  • John Edwards. He came off as poised and polished and the most authentic of the candidates, answering the questions, faithfully, as asked. He seemed much more relaxed and confident than the man he's got to overtake, Obama. He got some of his freshness back tonight.
  • Bill Richardson. The Governor wasn't telegenic, and he didn't speak as precisely as he'll need to. But he did a good job of distinguishing himself. His policies on global warming and Iraq sounded executive, decisive, and not, well, senatorial. He also gave the only appropriately decisive answer to the question about a U.S. response to a two-city domestic terror strike. Hit back. Hard.
  • Mike Gravel. Pissed off and refreshingly unvarnished. A little crazy, but I think that works for him. These are crazy making times for a lot of hardcore progressives.

Holding Steady:

  • Hillary Clinton. She started off strong — really confident and polished and engaged and smart. As impressive as I've seen her. She seemed to be tiring by the end, but I think she wore the challenging mantle of frontrunner well. She didn't hurt herself.
  • Joe Biden. Came in with the line of the night, the single word response — 'Yes' — to the tendentious question of whether he ever held his flappy tongue. But seemed to acknowledge the inevitability of his also-ran status by sucking up to Hillary at the end.
  • Chris Dodd. Experience is boring. Especially when you can't stop talking about it. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Moving down:

  • Barack Obama. He filibustered his way through this debate. He's set the bar high for himself as a fresh voice for change. And he disappointed by coming off as the most programmed member of the field, answering the questions he'd prepared for, not the ones he was asked: How would he pay for his health care plan, to cite just one example. He was playing not to lose. Not good enough with Edwards playing to win.
  • Kucinich. Uggh.