Well, the debates were yesterday and boy, what difference you can see in the parties. Completely ignoring Regan's "11th commandment" never to attack a fellow Republican, the candidates were constantly throwing little jabs at each other (or full bitch slaps to Romney on a regular basis). Ron Paul of course took the second hardest hits, barely being allowed to explain his point.
They also showed very effectively how little they know about what is going on. All of them (except for Ron Paul) said we have the best medical system in the world, completely ignoring and actual facts. Ron Paul at least admitted there was a problem, but his solution of letting the market handle the problems ignores the fact that the market has been in control of the problem and it doesn't work. The problem with letting the market control things is that the market is only worried about making money. If you don't have money to be taken, the market will ignore you and you won't be able to get health care.
The Democrats were almost a complete inverse. I wasn't able to watch the entire exchange (bedtime for the little one often interferes with these things...). They were often much more on topic, and there were many fewer snarky comments against each other (I don't remember either, but I wasn't there the whole time). My biggest complaint was that the moderators didn't ask the same questions of the Democrats as they asked of the Republicans. We already know what the candidates think of the war in Iraq; it is repeated back to us on a regular basis. The best question asked of the Republicans was, oddly enough, asked by President Bush. "What would be the underpinning of -- of -- of your decisions?" Huckabee, being the only Republican that actually answered the question, gave the reason that question matters: "because [policies] can change with each generation, with each year, with each circumstances . . . What is it that's deep inside of us that -- that guide us, that direct us, that show the framework of what we're going to do." I know what policies the Democrats (and Republicans) are pushing (largely), what I want to know is how the candidates view the world as this will show how the candidate will handle things that come up unexpectedly. Obama I feel I understand after reading his memior, but not so much the others.
Instead, Gibson took the easy way out. He focused on the things we have heard over and over: Iraq, nuclear terrorists (currently completely irrelevant and for which there is only one response), and a question that started out looking like a domestic policy question and instead changed into a question about change, which we hear about constantly in this campaign. That last question showed a very sharp divide between Obama/Edwards and Clinton/Richardson. Obama and Edwards view change as a change in the political process and the reduction of the lobbyists' power in Washington. Clinton views change as a different person and gender in the White House. Richardson, from how I understand his quote, doesn't think change can happen at all...
All told, I don't believe these debates will have changed much, especially on the Democrat side. On the Republican side of things, Huckabee continued to do well and may have strengthened his position in New Hampshire while Romney continues to fade. My personal prediction for the primary is a much tighter race between Obama and Clinton - it has been much too close to call for a while and I can't tell what, if anything, Edwards's move yesterday to support Obama against Clinton will do. On the Republican side, I'm pretty sure McCain is going to come in first, and a tight race for second between Romney and Huckabee, either way, Romney probably won't last much longer.