The two remaining Democrats reversed roles with the Republican presidential candidates in this week's debates. Whereas last week the stories were the back and forth bickering between Clinton and Obama in South Carolina followed by the GOP compliment-fest in Boca Raton, the debates of this week were marked by the exact opposite effect. The Republican debate from the Reagan Library showcased the personal exchanges between McCain and Romney (and lest we forget the ever popular Huckabee one-liners and Paul condemnations of the current administration's policies), while the Democrats kept it civil despite the concerted efforts of Wolf Blitzer's to bait the Democrats in to a "fight" last night. At one point he used the phrase naive to describe Clinton's support of what turned into the initial Iraq war authorization. That was the most blatant attempt at baiting on the part of the moderators last night, but certainly not the only one.
Here's the link to some videos of CNN's coverage last night.
And here's the blow-by-blow account of the pillow fight from The Caucus.
So what explains the switch? Sequencing may have something (or a lot) to do with this. See the other party bicker, and claim that mantle of civility. It probably isn't that easy, but I find it hard to imagine that last night's Democratic debate will do anything to change what will happen in next Tuesday's slew of delegate selection events. And that's another commentary on American politics. It is the negative ads and debate performances that alter the shape of things to come (or do a more pronounced job of it).
One other thing that I noticed last night (Other than Stevie Wonder being there. Didn't he become a citizen of the African nation of Ghana about a decade ago? Maybe he still enjoys American politics.) was that CNN has a series of debates scheduled for the end of the month in Ohio (ahead of the March 4 primary there). This may give us an answer to the question that came up in the live discussion group on Wednesday: How will the media play the results on Super Tuesday (as a delegate counting contest or a who-won-the-big-states contest)? By looking forward to back-to-back debates on February 27 and 28, CNN may be showing its hand: That they prefer the delegate counting option. It does make for a different story than we've had recently in presidential elections. At the very least CNN seemingly doesn't see the race ending on Tuesday night. That's fine by me.
The Maine GOP starts their caucuses today and continue on through Sunday. They won't be earth-shattering, but it'll give political junkies a little something to tide them over until Tuesday rolls around.
And here's another Fix take on VP speculation.
Keep in mind that Year-End Reports were due to the FEC yesterday. That will be the first real indication of where the candidates are (or were) financially. I haven't seen much if any press mention of the reports yet. Here's a little from the Boston Globe.