9:07 pm: So that's a wrap. An interesting debate -- finally a clash, though a brief one, between the front-runners (to be continued, no doubt, at the ABC debate next month). Some real substantive differences. And on style, it felt like all of the top three candidates got better since last they met. And count me a fan of the YouTubers -- we heard plenty of questions we'd never otherwise hear.
Tune in for tomorrow's Note for a complete wrap. As always, thanks for reading...
9:02 pm: If the Obama video is an indication of the ad war to come, wow, this Obama guy could be for real. I jest, but that was a nice piece his campaign put together.
8:57 pm: Obama with a good summation of sorts. He definitely came in with a message he wanted to deliver this evening -- which has made this perhaps his best debate performance to date.
8:55 pm: Clinton had an effective answer to the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton question: "I think it is a problem that Bush was elected in 2000." Then comes Gravel: "Please wake up."
8:53 pm: So clearly Dodd has had enough of the format. With seven minutes left.
8:50 pm: Edwards finds his voice on healthcare, and even Anderson Cooper can't cut him off. "We should be outraged by these stories." An effective answer -- Clinton's talk of a "national commitment" and Obama's promise to fight the insurance companies come off as rather hollow by contrast.
8:40 pm: Thank you, Senator Obama, for that burst of truth: "We can afford to work for the minimum wage because most folks on this stage have a lot of money." Biden: "I don't have Barack Obama money."
8:34 pm: So did Bill Richardson just say he's going to push the country in a direction he hasn't been able to push his own state, regarding paper trails in voting?
8:29 pm: Sen. Dodd on the carbon tax -- that is a key issue for him. But that was a good number of hands that went up regarding the charter flights to get to South Carolina.
8:26 pm: Nothing wrong with a little comic relief -- a very little.
8:23 pm: The candidates on sex ed -- another question we'd only get at a YouTube debate. More serious than boxers or briefs, but a real different type of question -- that's why this format is -- mostly -- working.
8:22 pm: Wow, the rollicking pace has slowed a bit, hasn't it? These questions that everyone has to answer -- nothing kills the pace quite like letting everyone talk.
8:15 pm: OK, Senator Gravel, keep complaining about not being allowed to talk more -- that's the way to make sure you're invited back.
8:11 pm: Corey L - interesting point about this being disjointed. I'm liking the format, but I could see why you wouldn't. I mean, why wouldn't Anderson Cooper played out the first real attack by the No. 2 candidate on the No. 1?
8:09 pm: Text "peace"? What are you talking about Congressman Kucinich?
8:07 pm: There's Biden talking about truth again. He is quite good when he gets riled up.
8:03 pm: That was an interesting division between Obama and Clinton on whether the president should meet with the leaders of rogue nations. Obama's answer was strong, but Clinton's was the stuff of -- wait for it -- experience.
8:00 pm: Clinton: "There isn't much doubt in anyone's mind that I could be taken seriously." No one on stage would doubt that.
7:57 pm: So no one wants a draft, but everyone thinks women should be part of this draft we shouldn't ever have again? Why should we care about this?
7:54 pm: Here's the moment we all were waiting for: Obama takes on Clinton by name. "The time for us to ask how to get out of Iraq was before we went in." It took a while to get to this point, but there we have it, and that's out headline -- so far.
7:48 pm: I'm sick of saying it myself, but Clinton is just amazing in this format. Really nice answer about why Congress isn't acting faster to end the war.
7:46 pm: Biden is at his best in these "let's get real" moments.
7:45 pm: How do we pull out now? Obama: "Look, I opposed this war from the start." Then he channels ABC's Martha Raddatz in pointing out that it's just as hot for the troops as it is for the Iraqi parliament.
7:45 pm: From ABC's Karen Travers: "The Edwards ad was clever - I thought, hmm a dig at the media, but it allowed them to spin that issue to their favor. I think the use of 'Hair' and seeing the images used under the song will make people think more about the 60s and protesting an unpopular war more than they will think about Edwards' pricey haircut. I thought it was a clever way to address the point but make it about something larger."
7:40 pm: While on the subject of hair, this from Jake Tapper: "I just realized that the subtext of Chris Dodd's video making fun of his white hair was an insinuation that the other candidates he cited as being roughly his age all dye their hair. Or they don't work as hard."
7:38 pm: Definitely an interesting take from Edwards -- heavy stuff. (Here's the link.) But are we (in the media) supposed to feel bad now for covering the expensive haircut from the anti-poverty candidate?
7:34 pm: Sort of lame video offering from Clinton. I thought it wasn't about gender?
7:33 pm: Wow, did Obama ever duck for cover when asked about gay marriage. How could he not have a pat answer for that?
7:31 pm: Edwards has an interesting response on gay rights: "I feel enormous personal conflict about this issue.... I personally have been on a journey on this issue." Where is the journey taking him? Rev. Longcrier slows down the pace now... not what CNN wanted.
7:28 pm: That was a truly great way to ask a gay-marriage question. But that's not the kind of question most of the folks on stage want to answer.
7:25 pm: From Jake Tapper: "Obama didn't really answer the questions about handling criticism about not being authentically black enough. Clinton didn't answer it about being insufficiently feminine. Both pivoted into narratives they'd rather talk about. (For Obama -- how he can transcend race; for Clinton -- how her presidency would make history.) The Youtube questioners need to be here to force follow-ups."
7:24 pm: "Experienced and strong leadership" -- there's the Clinton message. Like in previous debates, her answer was concise and right-on.
7:22 pm: Here's betting Obama doesn't have a problem catching cabs anymore.
7:20 pm: A really bad answer by Richardson on what should have been an easy question -- on Katrina. This is why he just can't break through.
7:17 pm: Nice non-answer on reparations by Obama -- seriously, a good answer to a tricky question.
7:15 pm: That might be the closest we see to an Edwards jab at Clinton: "Do you believe that compromise, triangulation, will bring about big change? I don't." Adds ABC's David Chalian: "Triangulation?? Edwards and Obama are clearly tired of HRC's frontrunning status."
7:11 pm: Mike Gravel on the attack against -- how about this? -- Obama. And this: "You're not going to see any change if these people get elected." What do you think about how Obama answered it? He got applause, but I didn't think he hit it out of the park.
7:09 pm: That was a rather clear division. Clinton took no time to get to the core rationale of her campaign: "The issue is which of us is ready to lead on Day One." And Obama didn't have to mention Clinton's name to make clear who he was referring to when he said, "we don't just need a change in political parties."
7:06 pm: It took Obama two sentences to get to the word "change." Somehow I think we'll hear it again tonight. We just did -- "Washington has to change."
7:04 pm: But MAD PROPS to CNN for calling out Joe Biden for trying to stuff the ballot box. Nice touch!
7:02 pm: Very American idol, to start with the rejects. But come on, why cheapen this?
6:52 pm: ABC's Jake Tapper reports: "Moderator Anderson Cooper just called Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del, 'Congressman' Biden. Donâ€™t they do some sort of current affairs quiz before they hand out these gigs?"
Also from Tapper: "DNC Chairman Howard Dean looks slimmer. He told me a few minutes ago he's lost 15 pounds from his peak campaign weight, which he blamed on peanut M&Ms."
6:45 pm: A few pre-debate tidbits... ABC's Kate Snow, who is traveling with President Clinton in Africa, reports that the former president is pulling an all-nighter to watch her wife in the debate, which starts at 2 am local time in Tanzania. He's going straight from the hotel to a safari at 5 am... And the candidates tonight prepared introductory videos -- former senator John Edwards' camp has hyped theirs all day, promising that it will "make news." We'll see...
Rick Klein of ABC's The Note here -- I'll be back live at 7 pm ET to blog during tonight's Democratic presidential debate, which airs on CNN and will feature questions submitted by voters via YouTube.
Until we begin -- what are you looking for in tonight's debate? Do you think Barack Obama and John Edwards should directly engage the front-runner, Hillary Clinton? Who do you think will shine in this unique format? Would you rather the members of the second tier didn't get tickets, as Edwards and Clinton have hinted at?