DEBATE LIVEBLOGGING….And we’re off. It’s our first Kucinich-less debate.

Wrapup: I didn’t really notice the alleged tiredness of Obama and Clinton, but I’ll defer on that to better body language readers than me. On substance, I don’t think there were any pivotal moments in the debate, but if I had to pick one exchange that stood out it was Hillary’s request to Obama to cosponsor her legislation preventing Bush from making unilateral treaties with Iraq. That really helped her on several different levels.

Other observations: all the candidates have obviously decided that they want to dial way back on the race/gender stuff. Good. Also: the policy distinctions between the candidates, which were pretty small to begin with, are shrinking even more. They really hardly disagree on anything.

10:57 — Andrew Sullivan: “Both Clinton and Obama look exhausted.” Chris Hayes: “I think I saw Obama and Clinton both start to nod off at one point.” But Edwards is his usual chipper self!

10:35 — More Michigan news: Romney beat Huckabee among evangelicals. Interesting. Overall, though, it’s surprising how little difference there is in the vote between various demographic groups on the Republican side. One big difference: voters who like the Bush administration went strongly for Romney, while those who are angry with Bush went strongly for McCain.

10:31 — According to the Michigan exit polls, Democrats who voted in the Republican primary mostly voted for McCain. I guess Kos’s effort to goose the vote for Romney didn’t work. Oh well.

10:24 — Obama voted for the 2005 energy bill? I didn’t know that. Hillary calls it the “Dick Cheney lobbyist energy bill,” which is just about right. Hillary wins this one on points.

10:22 — Now everyone is agreeing that Yucca Mountain is the worst idea since New Coke. Yawn.

10:18 — Exactly zero difference between the candidates on whether college campuses should be required to allow military recruiting. Surprisingly, everyone is in favor of treating our young men and women in the military with the utmost respect.

10:08 — Edwards is now trying to insist that keeping a strike force in Kuwait is far different than keeping a strike force in Iraq. Obama calls it a distinction without a difference. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but there’s really not much daylight between the candidates anymore on the issue of withdrawal from Iraq.

10:02 — Hillary’s question for Obama: Will he cosponsor my legislation that requires President Bush to get congressional approval for any long-term agreement with Iraq? This is pretty clever, no? It establishes good anti-war cred for Hillary, places her squarely in the “working together” camp, puts Obama in the position of being her junior partner, and threw Obama off his stride for a few moments.

9:51 — Everybody agrees that the bankruptcy law was a bad idea. Glad we got that cleared up.

9:50 — On a purely aesthetic note, Hillary could really stand to turn down the volume a notch.

9:39 — Back from the break. Finally, we’re done with the attempt to spark a catfight. I hope.

9:29 — Greatest strength and greatest weakness? Obviously “greatest weakness” will be completely bogus, but “greatest strength,” while also bogus, at least tells us what image each candidate wants to project. And I have to say, I’m in awe of just how closely all three of them confirmed their own stereotypes. Obama: The ability to bring people together. Edwards: Fighting for children and families. Clinton: You have to be able to manage and run the bureacracy.

9:25 — More news from Michigan: Hillary Clinton has handily beaten “Uncommitted.” And all without running any negative ads.

9:23 — Jeebus. Russert and Williams are just hellbent on trying to get the candidates to bash the others. Give it up, guys. They’ve decided to dial it down tonight.

9:22 — Some kind of disturbance in the background? What did the heckler say?

9:20 — More kumbaya. Yawn. Can we get some real questions, please?

9:14 — Tim Russert doesn’t want peace. He’s going to keep asking about race despite the fact that every one of the candidates obviously isn’t going take the bait.

9:10 — No shilly-shallying in Michigan. With 11% of the precincts reporting, Mitt Romney is the winner already. That’s three Republican winners in three primaries. Long may the bloodletting continue.

9:06 — Hillary wants to make peace with Obama. Obama wants to make peace with Hillary. Edwards too! Hooray for Democrats!

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!