3:25 pm ET: Closing thoughts -- Obama had the best line, bringing Clinton onto his team as an adviser. A "wow" moment that halted the laughter. Clinton seemed to get back into her groove for much of the afternoon -- good, strong close for her. Edwards though wins on my scorecards -- he was relentlessly on message, sounding strong, and making a very good case to keep this a three-person race.
That's it from me today -- Rick Klein. Those of you who've joined the blog -- you've been the best group of the debate season, and I hope and trust you'll be back online with me Jan. 5, for ABC's two debates in New Hampshire!
More tomorrow in The Note.
3:25 pm ET: Moderator calls it a "very exciting" Republican debate from Wednesday. She's the only one who feels that way.
3:22 pm ET: Edwards is "driven in [his] gut." Once again, he brings it back to a clear, concise message.
3:20 pm Et: Biden gets nostalgic (and chokes up?). Obama: "I want to remind myself, constantly, that this is not about me." Then "not to be distorted by the fears of losing." Huh?
3:18 pm ET: Edwards resolves to give his stump speech. Dodd gets a laugh: "Iowans caucus, and they caucus correctly." Richardson tweaks Congress.
3:16 pm ET: New Year's resolutions... Clinton: "I have a lot of things that I think about resolving." And "spending time with my family." Careful, careful, careful what you wish for...
3:14 pm ET: Ooh, a good meaty signing statement question (props to my old colleague at the Boston Globe, Charlie Savage.)
3:13 pm ET: Obama with the line of the night!! "Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me as well." Bingo -- there's your line. Very quick, very smart. Made Hillary Clinton stop laughing.
3:12 pm ET: Richardson on protecting nuclear secrets: "We should have done a lot more." How reassuring!
3:09 pm ET: Edwards the fighter, again. Point is, you couldn't watch even a piece of this debate without getting a very strong sense of his key campaign message.
3:06 pm ET: Joe Biden should NOT be talking about 7/11s and Dunkin' Donuts in reference to Indian-Americans. Ever. Ever. "Just like the Italians." (!!!!) Staffers in Delaware cringe.
3:04 pm ET: OK -- this is interesting, a meaty question about Sen. Clinton's time as first lady. Her answer for what she'd do differently? "A strong communications strategy." (Howard Wolfson and Phil Singer have jobs waiting for them.) Wonder if anyone will bit on this...
3:02 pm ET: Here's Edwards shooting broad once again -- "join together to take this democracy and take this country back." At least the fourth time he's sounded that theme -- if you're an angry Iowan, you've got to love that message. And the Fox dialers certainly do.
2:57 pm ET: What's up with the school-marm of a moderator! Who cares if someone gets 15 seconds more than someone else? How much time has she wasted playing referee?
2:55 pm ET: Hillary Clinton is mentioning her family -- on the day that she launches a campaign ad that features her mother and her daughter. The Clinton campaign must have polling that says people like her family.
2:53 pm ET: Two-thirds of the way through now, roughly, I don't see this contributing significantly to the campaign's storylines. The Fox dial tests have been friendly to Edwards and Obama, if that means anything.
2:48 pm Et: Clinton swipes Edwards and then Obama: "Some believe you get change by demanding it. Some believe you get it by hoping for it." So far, that's probably the clip that gets played the most when this debate is over.
2:45 pm ET: Joe Biden just released a statement upon the "release" of the Mitchell report -- which came out while he was on the debate stage in Iowa.
2:42 pm ET: Clinton jumping in to volunteer the field to raise their hands -- a flash of the candidate who was at the early debates, who rose above the field and sometimes took it upon herself to speak for it.
2:41 pm ET: Edwards is making just about every response about his fight-the-establishment message. He's good at hitting a message over and over -- often what you need to do in a debate that doesn't have major highlights.
2:39 pm ET: This is the best I can remember Clinton on the environmental issue. "Reaching for the stars, only we're going to do it right here on earth." Excellent line from the woman who once wanted to be an astronaut.
2:37 pm ET: I'm all about responsiveness, gang, that's the point of the blog -- it's not a one-way street.
2:37 pm ET: Dodd seems to get really animated only when he talks about the carbon tax. That remains a major distinction between him and the rest of the field.
2:35 pm ET: I just think these questions are too broad. Asking the candidates to talk about how to turn energy policy into a plus for the economy, that just gives too many opportunities for too many different types of answers. I don't see how that gets at meaningful issues or distinctions between the candidates.
2:33 pm ET: Richardson uses his 30 seconds a bit differently -- a thanks. How sweet. He calls Iraq "the most important, fundamental issue facing this country." It might yet be, but isn't so much at this stage of the campaign, and certainly not at this debate.
2:30 pm ET: Clinton on NAFTA: "It should be changed." She's said this before, and it's important in Iowa. "I'm going to ask for revisions that actually benefit our country." "We don't want to be the trade patsies of the world." Not a part of the Clinton record that she wants to dwell on, but that was a good line, the no-patsies policy.
2:25 pm ET: Edwards: "What makes America America is at risk." "We need to take them on." Edwards is looking strong today, notwithstanding the verbal flub.
2:23 pm ET: So far, this is the most political line of the afternoon, and it's from Obama: "We are not going to make some of these changes unless we change how business is done in Washington." He's said it before, and this is all relative to how interesting this debate is, but that's a clear-shot line on a message he is talking about all the time.
2:21 pm ET: Hillary Clinton's bipartisan commission on Social Security is back. The dynamics of the campaign have shifted since this was a major issue, but I wonder if any of the other candidates will pick up on her continued refusal to name specific steps she'd take.
2:19 pm ET: Appreciate the comments below about content -- I'm sort of assuming that people who are tuning into the blog are also watching on TV or on a Web stream.
2:18 pm ET: Bill Richardon's productive relationship with China will start with all these bans and threats?
2:17 pm ET: Early on -- and it is early -- this is shaping up as another snoozer.
2:12 pm ET: There's reference No. 2 to the 1990s from Clinton. Oh and there's No. 3, even as I type.
2:11 pm ET: Fox News is doing running dial-testing -- and John Edwards is quite literally off the charts with that answer about the tax system being rigged.
2:09 pm ET: Hillary Clinton also gets in a reference to the balanced-budget years of the 1990s. May be fun to start a running tally of her shout-outs to the Clinton years.
2:07 pm ET: Does Chris Dodd think his Senatese about pay-go and obscure budget acts he's sponsored is going to get hm anywhere?
2:05 pm ET: Bill Richardson makes the first reference to the "Clinton years," and it's a positive one.
2:03 pm ET: What a terrible (and easy) first question -- is it a priority to balance the federal budget? For some reason, though, Barack Obama didn't start with a simple "yes."
2:01 pm ET: Feels like we never left -- but here we are again. Again, just rooting for more action than yesterday...
Rick Klein from ABC's The Note here. I'll be online live at 2 pm ET during Thursday's Democratic debate -- the last debate before the Iowa caucuses, and hopefully more interesting than Wednesday's Republican debate. Look forward to having you with me -- assuming you're not named in the Mitchell Report.