REALTIME DEBATE BLOGGING….I don’t often even watch political debates, but tonight’s seems more important than usual and it was kind of fun blogging the State of the Union address on Tuesday. So let’s do it again.

Overall impressions ? Nothing much, really; the whole thing was pretty subdued with no big moments or big fumbles. I thought Edwards sounded strong, Kerry and Dean were OK, and Clark might have bobbled a bit. Still, if there’s anything I’ve learned while watching these things, it’s that my gut reactions are often light years away from other people’s. Overall, my guess is that the debate neither helped nor hurt anyone very much.

6:48 ? Transcript of the debate is here.

6:47 ? Huh? That’s it?

6:45 ? Pretty punchy criticism of Bush from Kerry: He’s run “the most arrogant, most inept foreign policy in history.”

6:35 ? More charts from Kucinich. Doing it on TV is an improvement, but he needs to learn how to use PowerPoint better….

6:32 ? Clark: “I would not have voted for the [September war] resolution.” Hmmm, a couple of months ago he really did say he “probably” would have voted for it, didn’t he?

6:29 ? Brit Hume is asking Clark whether he’s really a Democrat. The question’s already been asked. Clark is now answering. And he’s saying the same thing he said the first time. Sheesh.

6:27 ? Huh? Asking the candidates to pledge to protect New Hampshire’s status as the first primary?

6:21 ? I have to admit that it occasionally occurs to me just how much of an idiot I’d look like if I had to stand on a stage and answer questions like this….

6:18 ? Clark: the ACLU should have been brought in to “pre-approve” the CAPPS II passenger screening program for privacy violations.

6:12 ? It always sets my teeth on edge when a candidate launches into a story about some ordinary voter he allegedly met a few days ago. I wonder how this goes over with other people?

6:10 ? You know, I kinda feel sorry for Joe Lieberman. I mean, he’s earnest and sincere and all that, and when he speaks he seems like he really means what he says. Still, whenever he starts speaking the only thing I can think of is: how long will it be after the polls close before he drops out?

6:03 ? Sharpton isn’t good for much, but at least he usually provides some comic relief. Not tonight, though. He’s really off his game for some reason.

6:00 ? Question to Kucinich: Is the Democratic party divided on the war? Answer: Yes. But there are occasional points of agreement: “The one thing that John Edwards and I agreed on in Iowa was that we both wanted more delegates.”

5:57 ? Lieberman: “Nice try, Peter.” Well, at least he’s honest about not being willing to answer the question.

5:52 ? Dean: “You can’t trust right wing Republicans with your money.” That’s a good line.

5:48 ? Dean is emphasizing that we should repeal “every dime of the Bush tax cuts.” Aside from whether that’s good policy, I wonder if it’s good politics? I’m not sure. Dean seems to be pushing a “We need to be adults” strategy, which I guess might work if he keeps at it.

5:44 ? Question to John Edwards: John Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Was that right or wrong? Why is Peter Jennings asking Edwards about Kerry’s position on the issue? Why not ask about President Bush’s semi-endorsement of a marriage amendment instead?

5:40 ? Pandagon is doing real-time blogging too if you want to surf back and forth.

5:36 ? Scanning the other blogs, Josh Marshall says that Wesley Clark has gotten a bunch of Dick Gephardt’s staffers from Iowa to sign on for his campaign. Now if he can only get some of his supporters as well, most of whom seem to have switched their allegiance to Kerry.

5:34 ? I hope somebody says something interesting or makes some huge mistake soon. This is really boring so far. Say what you will about the stage management of the Rock the Vote debate, at least it held our attention a little better.

5:32 ? Peter Jennings, after Sharpton has droned on about the IMF for a while: “Um, Reverend Sharpton, the question was actually about the Federal Reserve Board…”

5:25 ? Clark sounds a little strident….

5:16 ? The Sharpton Doctrine?

5:15 ? Pretty good answer from Edwards about voting no on the Iraq funding resolution. He made his case forcefully and clearly and even managed to sound tough doing it.

5:09 ? Are reporters simply incapable of asking short, simple questions?

5:01 ? Sheesh, the cameraman couldn’t even figure out which candidates were which while Brit Hume introduced them. Bad start.

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