The Vice Presidential Dating Game

All three top contenders for the Democratic nomination tied for victor at the New Hampshire debate last night, each for separate reasons. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), who had given a weak performance at the last debate, was far more prepared and his confidence set him apart. John Edwards, clearly reading the polls, knew it was time to make a move and he made it. He was forceful and articulate and had, perhaps, the best answer next to Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) on Iran. And but for a bit too many fake nervous chuckles, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) delivered what front-runners must — she was poised, calm and authoritative without allowing herself to become combative. She got a laugh at Dick Cheney's expense to boot, always an added benefit in New Hampshire.

But more intriguing than the substance was, of course, the Vice Presidential Dating Game that has clearly begun. While Edwards was going for the jugular on the Iraq supplemental votes Clinton and Obama came to at the last minute, he stirred some applause by praising Obama for opposing the war. This AFTER Obama had rebuked him earlier for arriving at his leadership on the war four and a half years late. Not only that — when it came to healthcare, Edwards gave credit to Obama for introducing a plan but never acknowledged that Clinton had introduced one as well. When she spoke on the subject Edwards took pains to add that the savings she spoke of from tax relief were incorporated into the Edwards and Obama plans as well. It practically sounded like teamwork. Obama couldn't let all the love go unanswered and he later said he appreciated Edwards's compliment. Clinton was stuck, literally, in between them to make it even more awkward. In the break before she sat down Obama and Edwards yukked it up over her empty chair.

As the night wore on it became even clearer that Hillary The Nominee surely won't be selecting Obama or Edwards to be her vice president. She saved her compliments for Bill Richardson and the kind of diplomacy he had provided for her husband. Richardson thanked her for the nice words and made sure to heap praise on Bill, who not only gave him two great jobs but balanced the budget and created 20 million new jobs.

Richardson, it should be noted, had a great moment when he told a very loud Biden that the United States shouldn't intervene militarily in Darfur. "We don't need another military involvement. Iraq is enough," he said. Finishing up strong was more difficult for Richardson, though. On the last question, about what each candidate would do in his or her first 100 days, an opportunity for most to say they would end the Iraq war or mend international alliances, Richardson blurted out something about the need to provide preschool to every child in the country.

But hey, it doesn't disqualify you for vice president. Not in the least.