So the first question in tonight's Democratic debate at Drexel University goes to Barack Obama who is asked - as he must have known he would be - to outline the differences between himself and Clinton. And his response? Meh. He flubs it, delivering a nervous-sounding, meandering, indecisive, confused answer that goes precisely nowhere and gives no indication that he's really wanting to take a shot at Clinton. Quite a let-down and, surely, dispiriting to his supporters.
Talking about taking a more aggressive approach and then declining to do so when given the opportunity is not the way to win an election. Does he actually want to win? Because his answer to this thumpingly predictable question did not give the impression that he does.
By contrast Edwards offers a pretty clear argument in response to pretty much the same question.
However Hillary rebuts them both strongly. Her argument might not stand up to detailed parsing but it sounded authorative and decisive. She seemed to know what she was talking about in a way in which Obama did not. She seems angry, he seems passive; she sounds as though she has a grip on issues (even if she doesn't), he most definitely does not.
Did this debate just end in the first two minutes? Quite possibly.
As always, Dave Weigel is live-blogging the debate in his usual fine style. He makes the point that both Dodd and Biden sound much, much better than Obama. So far Obama is the wee boy invited to sit at the grown-ups table for the first time.
UPDATE: Russert asks Hillary an excellent question: will you ask that the records of your advice to your husband be released now, not in 2012 as your huband has asked. Hillary, naturally, dodges the question. Obama gives his best answer of the debate so far (not a high bar!) when he says this is an example of "not turning the page". Hillary touts her experience "at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue" but won't let us see how she operated when she was First Lady. Why the secrecy, he asks? Edwards then piles on and hammers Hillary as the candidate that the GOP want. How, he asks, can Hillary really be the "candidate of change"? Edwards' tone suggests he thinks the very idea is preposterous and he may not be wrong about that