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.