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Second Hour of Post-Debate Analysis

Aired June 3, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening again from St. Anslem College in New Hampshire, site of the second presidential debate in Campaign '08, eight candidates, arguably three frontrunners.
Iraq, of course, taking center stage on a weekend that has seen at least 14 Americans killed.

The evening, equal parts questioning from journalists, as well as audience members, some of whom have had family members in Iraq.

Tonight, we'll be looking at all the angles, brining you some of the highlights, talking to players and getting analysis from political pros, insiders and our own correspondents, the best political team on television.

All that coming up. First, CNN's Candy Crowley with the big picture.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Consistently third in national polls, John Edwards took it to them this evening, commending his top two rivals for voting against an Iraq spending bill and blasting them for failing to lead.

JOHN EDWARDS, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They went quietly to the floor of the Senate and cast the right vote. But there is a difference between leadership and legislate.

CROWLEY: It produced the first dust-up of the evening as Obama took exception.

BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think, John, the fact is I opposed this war from the start. So you are about 4 1/2 years late on leadership on this issue. I think it's important not to play politics on something as critical and as difficult as this.

CROWLEY: Running for the nomination of a fiercely anti-war party, Joe Biden was the odd man out, the only one to have voted in favor of the Iraq spending bill. Biden explained he could not in good conscience leave U.S. troops without funds.

Though refusing to be directly critical of his colleagues, Biden managed to get his point across?

JOE BIDEN, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I knew the right political vote, but some things are worth losing elections over. CROWLEY: Perched at the top of the pack, Clinton's debate mission was to be frontrunner, stay above the fray. She had her sights set on the general election, not her Democratic colleagues.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The differences among us are minor. The differences between us and the Republicans are major. I don't want anybody in America to be confused

CROWLEY: Clinton and Edwards clashed only gently when he repeated his assertion that the War on Terror is nothing more than a bumper sticker.

EDWARDS: That's exactly what it is. It's a bumper sticker.

CROWLEY: She politely dissented.

CLINTON: I have seen first hand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists. I believe we are safer than we were. We are not yet safe enough.

CROWLEY: The group touched on immigration, the crisis in Darfur, health care, education and taxes.

But time and again, the war dominated the stage, as it has the campaign.


COOPER: And Candy Crowley joins us now, along with John King, Wolf Blitzer and John Roberts.

Candy, why is Senator Clinton trying to emphasize there's not that much division betweens the folks on stage?

CROWLEY: Because she's the front-runner. You don't need to attack or go on the offense. You need to simply stay up there, put in a strong performance, which she did, and not raise any waves. You don't need go on the assault. You just need to keep things calm.

She looks like the uniter of the party as opposed to a divider in a country that seems desperate for people to stop arguing. She can sit up there and seem like the uniter.

COOPER: John King, on the one hand, Senator Edwards, former Senator Edwards certainly was going on the attack against Senator Clinton, sometimes against Obama as well. At the same time, he would try to go for big picture, lofty ideas about honesty in politics. At one point, instead of talking about Darfur, he changed it to talking about moral leadership in the world.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's trying to be, Anderson, the alternative to Hillary Clinton. In some ways, Senator Edwards' early campaign strategy has been blocked or thwarted or made a lot more difficult by the emergence of Barack Obama as the celebrity candidate in this race and someone, early on, appears to be a significant challenger to the front-runner, Hillary Clinton. So Senator Edwards trying, if you will, to say, don't forget me, I'm more of a presidential leader. I have better ideas and more experience.

That's the take in the "Spin Room" tonight. The Hillary Clinton campaign coming in and saying she came in a front runner, they believe she leaves a front-runner.

In all the other campaigns saying there seems to be a competition between Obama and Edwards, to say I should be considered the leading alternative. Very interesting perspective here, Anderson.

COOPER: Wolf, when you were on the stage and there was that exchange between Senator Clinton and Obama, Senator Edwards attacking them both for lack of leadership, for not saying how they were going to vote on the funding for troops until the last minute, both seemed to want to jump in. What was it like? Was there clear tension between them?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes, there was tension. You could see it. I was a little surprised Senator Edwards really went after them so quickly.

I suspected he might hold back a little bit. He clearly had an agenda. He wanted to differentiate himself and distinguish himself from the two front runners, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. He pounced. And he pounced quickly. And they responded, obviously, as everyone suspected they would.

I suspect also, Anderson, we will see a lot more of that as this campaign gets going.

COOPER: Let's play that John Edwards byte where he criticized them for what he termed lack of leadership. Well, we don't have that. We'll try to play that a little bit later on.

John Roberts, did any of so-called second tier candidates really break out tonight?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that Bill Richardson did himself some favors tonight, even though James Carville said earlier this evening he didn't think he was as strong as he has been in the past.

As we heard from one of the people who were in the audience tonight, trying to make up their minds who they're going to vote for, they thought Richardson sounded like a real manager, which is the real strength of governors in these presidential campaigns.

Joe Biden, who was cited as being very strong, obviously was. Was he a little too angry? People do not like angry candidates. When he was talking, particularly about Darfur, he was bordering really on emotion that was getting toward anger.

But I think tonight, Anderson, one of the stand-out moments was when Barack Obama took that question about should English be the official language of the United States and he turned it into one of those out-of-the-box moments, as he did a few weeks ago on one of the Sunday shows when asked whether his children should benefit from affirmative action when going to college.

He said these are the questions that are designed to divide us. He had a real presidential moment there where he took a question that could be somewhat controversial, perhaps even explosive on stage like that, and he shaped it into a unifying moment where he stood up to say, this is what we think is best for the country.

Of course, Anderson, we'll be discussing all of this tomorrow with a couple of the presidential candidates on "American Morning." We look forward to having people with us as we do that tomorrow.

COOPER: Certainly do look forward to that.

John King, played some of the harshest criticism, not surprisingly, coming from James Carville and Dennis Kucinich. Dennis Kucinich basically blaming the war not just on President Bush, but Democrats.

KING: In fact, he said it was the Democrats war now, Anderson, something none of the other Democratic candidates want to hear. They want this to be a campaign against George W. Bush's war. They want this make this a campaign against the leading Republican candidates, who all the other Democrats say largely support the president's policy.

And, yes, you have Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel who are certainly not in the top tier, but who can influence the race because of their participation in these debates, saying the Democrats are now the leadership party in Congress. The Democrats have a chance to just cut off the funding and stop the war.

So if you're Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama, even though they are having a spirited debate about the war amongst themselves, it can be even more complicated when you have a Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel saying all these guys are spinning you or no being politically honest with you. They have the power to shut it off, especially those in United States Congress who have to cast the votes not only in recent history, but in the days and weeks ahead.

Having a Kucinich or a Gravel in the race, pressing them every single time, makes the war, already a complicated debate, all the more messy.

COOPER: John King live from the "Spin Room" where candidates and their supporters are trying to spin the story. That's why we try to avoid it as much as possible.

Let's go to Larry King, who's on the stage of this hall.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Thanks, Anderson.

Back with our panel of Wolf Blitzer, James Carville, J.C. Watts and Donna Brazile.

James, is Iraq the gorilla in the room?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, if it was, it should have pranced around the room a lot. We weren't for the lack of discussion about it.

LARRY KING: I mean, is it "it"? If I had to pick an "it," is it "it"?

CARVILLE: No. It's a very important issue. But I bet you when it's all said and done about this debate, the audience was just as attuned, maybe more tuned to a lot of domestic issues, healthcare and other things we talked about out here.

Always these kinds of issues drive voters more, particularly in Democratic primaries. So, yes, it's a huge issue. By every poll, it's a number one issue.

But it's not "it" and it doesn't loom over everything else to the fact these voters, I bet you, were really paying attention to these health care issues and deficit issues and stuff like that.

LARRY KING: Donna, it's not the key to who wins or loses this primary?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIC: It will remain a very dominant issue in this presidential debate season, as well as this contest.

But I also agree with James, domestic issues. Democrats want to hear about the candidates' position on health care, immigration.

One issue we touched on very lightly tonight, education. That's a huge issue for this country, especially in light of the fact that Congress must reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act.

LARRY KING: How about poverty? J.C.?

J.C. WATTS: That's the thing I take my hat off to John Edwards for. At least he's talking about it. I don't necessarily agree with his models and how he would deal with poverty. He's one of the few candidates, on the Republican or Democrat side, is at least everyday you hear something from him about that.

Larry, concerning this war issue, I do believe it is "it." I thought Senator Clinton tonight was very clever. John Edwards is taking a far left position on the war. Senator Clinton didn't allow him to drag her into that far left theology.

She, I thought, smoothly navigated, in her space, where she was comfortable with the war, with some nuances, but again, she did not allow him to drag her to a far left position.

LARRY KING: Before we bring in the audience, Wolf, isn't the party, though, far left on Iraq?

BLITZER: On Iraq, there are nuances. There are differences. We heard some of those distinctions today between Senator Biden, for example, some of the other Senators on why they voted for what they did.

I suspect -- and I'd be interested with the rest of the panel, getting their thoughts. I suspect the eight Democrats here agree, more or less, on Iraq just as the ten Republicans, who will be debating Tuesday night, more or less, agree in support of President Bush's policies on Iraq.

LARRY KING: I promised you a question or two from some members of the audience late at night in New Hampshire.

This is Carol Treme (ph). Right, Carol? What's your question?

CAROL TREME (ph), AUDIENCE MEMBER: Research on early learning is shouting at us to invest in the early years. I was disappointed they didn't speak that much about education.

"Time" magazine has focused on that this week. And I hope you all have read it. I'm interested in knowing who has looked at high- quality education and what their recommendations are in that department?

LARRY KING: James, you've been in the political business a long time. Is education ever to the forefront?

CARVILLE: People care about education, of course they do -- schools.

LARRY KING: Why don't they talk about it more?

CARVILLE: First of all, you will not find a lot of disagreement with Democrats over education. I think Senator Dodd is more into this early childhood learning and the childhood stuff. He has a career built up on these kinds of things.

I don't think there's a huge disagreement among Democrats on the question of education. I think most of them would have said we need to spend more obviously -- early childhood education is enormously important, if you look at the effect Head Start has had, some of the pre-K. Some of these other programs are part of Democratic doctrine, if you will.

I think had it been brought up, I think you would have been pleased. I don't think there's a lot of difference on education among the candidates up there tonight.

LARRY KING: We have one more audience question from Tom Maloney -- Tom?

TOM MALONEY, AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening. I was wondering if you thought Senator Clinton sort of played it safe tonight. I noticed she, more than anyone else, reverted to some anti-Bush language rather than focusing on establishing her own positions

LARRY KING: Donna? BRAZILE: No. I don't think so. I thought Senator Clinton did a great job establishing her position, especially on Iraq, but she showed leadership especially on a very important issue that has come up on this debate. That is don't ask, don't tell.

So she could have avoided that question on gay civil union and some other issues. But she didn't. She answered directly. I thought she was, by far, once again, a strong candidate.

LARRY KING: J.C., as a Republican, are you impressed with this Democratic group?

WATTS: I think the Democrats are a lot more stable at this time, in terms of, I think where they're trending. I think Senator Clinton is, by far, the front-runner. I think she's the person to beat.

On the Republican side, the candidates that actually announced, we don't know who the candidate is going to be.

Then you have Fred Thompson with his shadow hovering over the field. It will be interesting to see where Fred Thompson -- where his numbers will come from, who does he impact? Who's the most vulnerable? I think it's probably Rudy.

But, yes, I think the Democrats are a lot more focused and stable as to the way they're trending right now.

LARRY KING: We'll be back with more of our panel with Wolf Blitzer and Donna and Jim and J.C.

I'm Larry King. Let's turn it over to Anderson Cooper.


COOPER: Larry, thanks.

We'll have more raw politics ahead. We'll also be joined by David Gergen, Jeffrey Tubin, Arianna Huffington and Mike Murphy, joining me next at St. Anslem College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Stay tuned.



CLINTON: I want to end by saying Barry Goldwater once said you don't have to be straight to shoot straight. I think he was right. And I believe we should open up our military.

BIDEN: Let me tell you something. Nobody asked anybody else whether they're gay in those holes, those foxholes, number one. Number two, our allies, the British, the French, all our major allies, gays openly serve. I don't know the last time an American soldier said to a backup from a Brit, "Hey, by the way, let me check, are you gay? Are you straight?" This is ridiculous.


COOPER: Senators Clinton and Biden, Senator Biden, especially fiery tonight.

Joining me now to look at that, the politics at who won and lost, Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the; Republican Strategist Mike Murphy; and former presidential advisor David Gergen and CNN's Jeffrey Tubin.

Arianna, we just heard Clinton and Biden talking about don't ask, don't tell policy. Did either candidate gain or lose points for their answer regarding gays in the military?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: No. I think Hillary Clinton would have gained even more points if she had said, yes, her husband's administration had made a mistake.

There's nothing wrong with occasionally admitting you or your husband made a mistake.

But I think a more significant point on this is what the Obama campaign failed to do tonight. I was downstairs in the spin court, "Spin Room", listening to David Axelrod, Obama's chief media strategist, spinning the press. And he said there is sequential. There's a long time to go, a long time before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. That's not a good strategy for the Obama campaign.

They're running a front-runner campaign. He missed a lot of opportunities tonight to challenge her.

Today, we had a major story on the cover of the "New York Times" magazine about Hillary's Iraq policy, about the fact she had not read the national intelligence estimate, about the fact she made claims by al Qaeda and Saddam that were not backed by intelligence, about the Levin Amendment.

These were all opportunities that Obama could have taken and challenged her. Because he's slipping in the national polls. She's gaining in the national polls. He won't overtake her simply being the way he was tonight.

COOPER: David Gergen, why wouldn't Obama go after Hillary Clinton on those issues? As Arianna said, they are front and center in the news right now?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: That's an interesting question, Anderson. I kept wondering, his instincts seem to be that as a consensus builder. Every time a question came up, he was the one that wanted to see how we could find -- make sense in the middle of all the people on the stage.

I'm not sure it's part of his character to go after, in that traditional fashion, to go after the front-runner. I think Arianna has a good point. His instincts may be in conflict with what a candidate would normally do in his position. JEFFREY TUBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you look at his history, he has not had a tough big election. He won a Democratic primary against an opponent embroiled in a sex scandal. He won his general election against a joke of a candidate who lived in Maryland. He's never had to come from behind in a serious race.

Here, he's behind. He's got to figure out how to get support from somewhere. It's tough to do that unless you do some comparative or, in other words, negative attacks of someone else.

COOPER: Certainly independence is very important in this race in New Hampshire. But several of the candidates, the second tier candidates, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, even John Edwards clearly trying to appeal to the left wing of the Democratic Party.

I just want to play some of what Kucinich had to say -- some of the criticism of his fellow Democrats. Let's play that.


DENNIS KUCINICH, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This war belongs to the Democratic Party because the Democrats were put in charge by the people in the last elections, with the thought they were going to end the war. They haven't. They have to stop the funding.

And I certainly am urging all of my colleagues here, don't give them any more money. The money's in the pipeline right now, enough to bring the troops home. Let's end the war and let's make this a productive evening.


COOPER: Arianna, clearly that plays well to the anti-war movement within the Democratic Party. My sense is a lot of people on that stage wished Kucinich and Gravel weren't there at all.

HUFFINGTON: You know, Anderson, I really don't think this is just the left wing or anti-war wing of the Democratic Party. As we know, this is like a 70 percent of the American people generally, who want to see the troops coming home. This is not a left-right issue.

I think where Kucinich made an interesting differentiation between himself and the rest of the Democratic Party and rest of the candidates was when he talked about peace, because the strength of the Democratic Party right now is not in talking about peace, but talking about security, in talking about what is going to make us more secure, in talking about the fact that this president has made us less secure by invading Iraq.

And that was a moment when Hillary Clinton, at the beginning, said we are safer now than we were before 9/11. That's very arguable. That was another opportunity that Obama missed, to say, we are not safer, we are less safe on so many grounds, where there's more anti- American feeling. The Iraq war has become a huge recruiting tool for al Qaeda. We are not spending the money protecting our borders. So that's really where Democrats are strong. Talking about peace, that's not really where the country and where the election is going to be.

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The truth is Kucinich is completely irrelevant to this process, unless he performs a miracle on stage. I disagree with this idea somebody is supposed to attack Hillary Clinton to get ahead.

There are two points I think are important. One is the anti- Hillary vote is big enough to win. The question is how do you consolidate it. People either like her or don't like her. Trying to attack her in a multi-way campaign puts you at some risk. And attacking is not Obama's natural thing.

But I think the alternate truth -- and this might sound a little contrarian -- but I think most of the campaign advisors, if you look at it enough, will tell you this, this debate was about one thing, it wasn't about the voters. It's too early for the voters. Eighty-five percent of the primary voters decide next January, in the last two or three weeks of the campaign.

This debate was about money, keeping the donor base interest and alive, to raise the money to fund the campaign at the end of the year, where the actual voters, even in these early states, get connected.

Media buzz creates money and finance, a good performance donors are watching on a network like this creates finance and power. So believe it or not, this thing had less to do with the voters, I believe, than all the trappings did.

It did have local television support in New Hampshire, an incremental thing. Fundamentally, it's still an inside game and this is the beginning of a very, very long process.

Nobody will make a big move in a debate like this that's going to put the race away, because for the voters, it hasn't even started yet.

COOPER: David?

GERGEN: Here we are -- all of us come up here in January, for the primaries. Here we are with a sense in the room tonight the vote is about to take place within a couple weeks. And it's June. It's summer. It's really strange.

So I'm not sure the old rules that Mike's talking about will pertain. People may make up their minds earlier.

COOPER: Up next, back with more with Larry King, questions from the audience, politics, raw, retail and happening tonight from New Hampshire right here on CNN. Stay tuned.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) EDWARDS: I think one difference we do have is I think I was wrong. I should never have voted for this war. This goes to the issue of Senator Obama raised a few minutes ago. He deserves credit for being against this war from the beginning. He was right, I was wrong.

And I think it is important for anybody who seeks to be the next president of the United States, given the dishonesty we've been faced with over the last several years, to be honest to the country.


LARRY KING: We're back. Half hour to go on this special edition, following the debate.

At the top of the hour, we'll have a full news package for you. Other things happened in the world today, I might gather.

And then at midnight eastern, 9:00 Pacific, the complete debate, so adroitly handled by Wolf Blitzer will be repeated. And this program, too, the whole four-hour package will be repeated.

Our panel is Wolf Blitzer, James Carville, J.C. Watts and Donna Brazile. We have some questions from the audience. This is Joe Turcott (ph).


QUESTION: Hi, my name's Joe.

I am actually a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. One thing I did notice that all the candidates like to throw around the Iraqi war ball, and nobody wanted to look at how exactly they wanted to bring the troops home and when. They all want to say, I'm bringing them home first. No, I'm bringing them home first. But nobody wanted to say how and where they were going and what's going to happen afterwards.

KING: Joe, a question for you, do you want them to come home. Do you want them out now?

QUESTION: Am I out now?

KING: No, do you want them out now?

QUESTION: Yes. I do. I want all of my brothers and sisters home now.

KING: Home now. But you say it wasn't explicit tonight -- Donna.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, thank you for your service to our country.

Look, the Democrats believe it's time to bring home our troops. They tried to do that in a supplemental bill that the president vetoed. They tried repeatedly last year with various amendments. So, I think, you can rest assured, that if it was up to a Democratic Congress, they would bring the troops home.

Unfortunately, as Senator Biden pointed out, we don't have the votes to override the president's veto.

KING: Jim.

CARVILLE: Yes, I think that most of them have been fairly specific. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, both said they would leave us a contingent in Iraq, maybe in Kurdistan to deal with Al Qaeda they come in. Democrats voted to have a specific timetable to withdraw the troops. I think 50 Senate Democrats, or maybe 48 Senate Democrats, plus two Republicans voted for that, and the president vetoed that.

Under the Constitution, if you can't get to it -- 50 is not 67. They were forced to come back and compromise and set the benchmark opposed to the timetable. But there has been a plan that and it has passed the House also. There was some specificity there.

BLITZER: They all have various positions. For example, the two candidates on the ends, Senator Gravel and Congressman Kucinich say get them out right away, within 30 or 60 days. Governor Richardson says he wants them all out by the end of this year. Most of the others, they have put forward the end of March of next year, most combat troops, there would be a residual force left fight Al Qaeda and to do some other things. They do have some fairly specific targets of when they would try to get the troops out.


WATTS: Joe, I, too, thank you for your service. I think you will agree that when evil people say they will do evil things to the United States of America, you better have people in the White House and in the Congress that will take them seriously. I do believe this president has taken seriously that threat.

I think the cause has been noble, the cause has been right. I think the execution has often been -- been very poor.

I think in terms of bringing the troops home, I think Republicans and Democrats both want to see the troops come home. How do we do that? That's the issue. I think we should have benchmarks. I have often said if you're not keeping score, it's just practice. We need to know how we're progressing. I think a date certain, which is what the president said, I think gives the upper hand to the enemy.

KING: Dan Forbes, you have a question.

QUESTION: I was surprised that the candidates, who voted to authorize the -- to give President Bush the authorization to go to war seemed genuinely stunned that used it so quickly. It seemed like with the rhetoric coming out of the White House and the build-up of the troops, that was exactly what he intended to do prior to the authorization. I'm just wondering what you folks think?

KING: James, were you surprised? CARVILLE: Well, I was kind of shocked that 236 U.N. inspectors in Iraq for 90 days. Against people -- some people thought, what's the purpose of going to war? Obviously, the inspections are going forward, the U.N. inspectors asked for more time. They would have been able to draw a definitive conclusion.

The truth of the matter is, that it would have been a great foreign policy victory for President Bush had he allowed the U.N. inspectors to remain in. And he could have said, look, as a result of this authorization, look what we did, we would have prevented the war, prevented all of the utter, absolute disaster that this war has been.

I do think there was some people that were surprised he was so -- so intent on going to war no matter what. By the way, there were two stories in "The Washington Post" where the CIA was having second doubts. At the time we went to war, there were many people who doubted whether we would find WMD, many smart people, Hans Blix, for sure and the CIA. Yeah, some people were kind of shocked and it was a really dumb thing he did to kick them out to go to war.

KING: We'll be back with our panel. Right now, back to the room where they spin things, Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

COOPER: Larry, coming up, what the bloggers are saying about tonight. That is coming up next on our program as we continue the coverage of tonight's debates. Stay tuned.



SCOTT SPALDING, WMUR POLITICAL DIRECTOR: If you are elected president, how, if at all, would you use former President Bill Clinton in your administration?

MIKE GRAVEL (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How would I use him? I'd send him as a roving ambassador around the world. He could take his wife with him, who would still be in the Senate.


COOPER: Former Senator Mike Gravel who, along with Republican Ron Paul, gets his share of buzz on the blogs. Probably not so much tonight. CNN's Jacki Schechner has been surfing and joins us now to find out what she's finding out online -- Jacqui.


Before we hit performance, I just want to tell you the talk of the online community tonight was Chris Dodd's talk clock. This was a very clever thing put together by his online team, that calculated how much time each candidate got. Senator Barack Obama came in tops with 16 minutes and Senator Hillary Clinton at 14.26; and our own Wolf Blitzer at 13 minutes and 24 seconds. Now as for reaction on line, Senator Clinton doesn't have a lot of following in the blogosphere. They're not big fans. But tonight they did give credit where credit was due. You can see that John Edwards, Barack Obama, and then Clinton coming in with 17 percent of the vote. This is an unscientific straw poll over at DailyKOS.come, the top liberal blog. But 17 percent is actually a lot for woman who comes in behind, "I don't have any clue", in the monthly straw polls, the DailyKos holds. So, she did a good job tonight we're seeing a similar thing over at, another one of the top liberal blogs. They gave it to Edwards, with Obama in second and then Clinton coming in third.

Now, they're saying things in the comments section that her performance was superior. There was also talk about her being "hot tonight".

I will tell you, Anderson, the little clip about her talking about Dick Cheney not being the right man to send abroad for diplomacy has already gotten hundreds of views on YouTube. That might be the quote of the night -- Anderson.

How popular is Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel online? I imagine some of their barbs scored pretty high.

SCHECHNER: One of the things people noticed Gravel seemed to be off to the side. He was marginalized in some regard. The humor factor was still there, something that came up last time. And people were honed in on performance which is surprising because a lot of times the blogs, like to pick up on humor.

I think tonight, in particular, they were very focused how the front runners were doing. Time came up a lot. I have to go back to that. But that was a big thing. People saw a lot more from Clinton and Obama and Edwards than they did from some of the other candidates. It was definitely noticed.

COOPER: Jacki Schechner online. Jacki, thanks.


We'll have a lot more from our panel. Arianna Huffington and Mike Murphy, Republican strategist, David Gergen, former presidential advisor, and analyst Jeffrey Toobin, as well. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Is it time, Senator Dodd, as Congressman Charlie Rangel recommends to bring back the military draft.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think so. I joined the Peace Corps in the 1960s. People asked me, why did I join the Peace Corps? I did it because an American president asked me. He asked a generation of us to be something larger than ourselves.


COOPER: Some final thoughts tonight from our team. Arianna Huffington, Mike Murphy, David Gergen and Jeffrey Toobin.

David Gergen, let me start off with you. Independents are important. They can vote in either primary. Who reached out to independents tonight?

GERGEN: I thought Hillary Clinton did more so than any other candidate, with the possible exception of Barack Obama. John Edwards was playing more to the left. She was looking more like a general candidate tonight.

This is a very, very important state for her. We all know around February 5th, we have the big bonanza of primaries. She's likely to do very well here unless she stumbles in the primaries before that. She may lose Iowa. She's stuck out there. She needs to win New Hampshire to have some momentum going into that Big Tuesday. This is a big state for her. If she were to lose Iowa and New Hampshire, her balloon could get punctured and get blown wide open.

Her performance here tonight, which was -- I agree with Jeff -- I think it was one of her finest nights tonight. It could solidify her lead, her position here in New Hampshire, among independents and could help her win the nomination of the party

TOOBIN: When you talk about independents, one of the things that struck me tonight, especially on domestic issues, this is a more liberal party than we have had in a long time. You have all the candidates agree that gays should server in the military, an issue on which Hillary Clinton's husband was blown out of the water by bipartisan opposition.

You have all the opposed to English as the official language. You had discussions of universal coverage of healthcare; you had tax increases back on the table. This is a more liberal party than it used to be. It may be that the country's moving in that direction, but that's a risk they're taking.

COOPER: Arianna, is that just more liberal for this primary season? And then when the general election comes around we're going to hear a different tune?

HUFFINGTON: I don't know about that, Anderson. But I do know this is a much more liberal country. Just look at all the polls. I think that's partly because of the last six years of George Bush and his administration, and what has happened to this country since then.

Also, we have to be careful when we look at what independents are looking for. Independents, in very large majorities, are looking for the troops to come home. This is a very huge issue.

Again, back in the spin room, David Axelrod is saying they do not agree, the Obama camp does not agree with Joe Biden, unless you have 67 senators and therefore a veto-proof majority, you can concede, there is nothing you can do without the president on your side, about Iraq. So that will continue to be a big issue when it comes to appealing to independents.

MURPHY: I take a different take on the independents, thing, Anderson. I think this was a lurch to the left. There was irony in it with Hillary Clinton, the presumed front-runner of the Democratic Party, now being part of a move to the left. And ban some of the things her husband did to create a centrist Democratic coalition that won some elections.

I heard tax and spend. I heard a more liberal policy on gays in the military, universal healthcare, of course, English first. And I think primaries naturally have that but we definitely got that today and I think that bodes well for the Republicans. The biggest mistake we can make tonight is to think politics is static. Everything happening right now would be what voters make their decision on in October of next year.

We don't know what the war situation will be. Everything can change. These fundamental left/right issues, when they move left, they lose the middle of the country and lose elections.

TOOBIN: Hillary Clinton wants Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel on this stage. For one thing, they diffuse the situation. It's more time for them essentially wasted. Also, she gets to define herself by what she's not. She can say, I'm for withdrawing from Iraq but I'm not like Dennis Kucinich. They really serve a purpose for her. The bigger the debate and the longer they're there, the better for her.

GERGEN: Yes, but Mike Murphy makes a good point how far the party has moved, and you did Jeffrey, on domestic issues. But on foreign policy issues, she was pretty tough tonight on a variety of issues like Afghanistan and Pakistan, and where we go from here on Iran and those sort of things.

I thought this party was much more articulate on the non-Iraq part of foreign policy than it has been in a long time. They're not very good on Iraq. But on other issues, this is a tougher foreign policy crowd. They're a little more conservative than they used to be.

COOPER: David Gergen, Arianna Huffington, Mike Murphy, Jeffrey Toobin, appreciate your expertise tonight. Thanks very much.

We'll have a lot more in RAW POLITICS as we continue our coverage in moments ahead. Stay tuned.



CLINTON: I am a senator from New York. I have lived with the aftermath of 9/11 and I have seen first hand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists who are intent upon foisting their way of life and using suicide bombers and suicidal people to carry out their agenda. I believe we are safer than we were, we are not yet safe enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Senator Clinton's response to Senator Edwards, saying that the war on terror is a bumper sticker slogan. By this point, you have seen most of the runs and hits and errors. Something you don't always see, including why all the candidates tonight were literally on thin ice. RAW POLITICS from CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Political theater looking for an audience. Before you make a speech, you have to make an entrance. That's what all the candidates wanted. First rule of showbiz, first rule of RAW POLITICS.

(VOICE OVER): John Edwards showed up with a big smile. Barack Obama with a big security team and Dennis Kucinich with a big -- well, a tall wife. Mainly, he's short. That's why he and Hillary Clinton stood on boxes to make them about the same height as the others. It must have worked because they all jumped down on President Bush with equal force.

CLINTON: This is George Bush's war.

OBAMA: We live in a more dangerous world, not a less dangerous world.

BIDEN: We've not been told the truth about this war from the beginning.

RICHARDSON: I would shut down Guantanamo.

EDWARDS: We have to reestablish trust between the American people and the president.

FOREMAN: But hold on, RAW POLITICS insiders have to note that a couple of the players underlined the very divisions that many Democratic strategists fear can undermine their pick in the general election.

KUCINICH: This war has been based on lies.

FOREMAN: Kucinich pointed out some of his fellow Democrats helped the president in the drumbeat for war at the outset; and Mike Gravel echoed the theme.

GRAVEL: Four of these people here will say that it's George Bush's war. It was facilitated by the Democrats.

FOREMAN: As if the president doesn't have enough trouble, former speaker of the House and possible Republican candidate Newt Gingrich was pounding on the prez this morning, too.

NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. SPEAKER: The government is not functioning. It's not getting the job done.

But the Newtster still won't say if he's going to run. The Republicans knew the storm was coming so they're hitting back in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with a new radio ad, a Desert Storm that smacks front runners Clinton and Obama and Edwards for promising support to the troops, then voting against the recent funding bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why the sudden about face? Is politics more important than our troops in harm's way?

FOREMAN: And just because it's interesting, the debate tonight took place in a converted hockey arena, with CNN setting up our whole shebang over a sheet of ice which remained underneath the floor.


FOREMAN: Maybe that's why even when the conversation got heated from time to time, the cooler heads always seemed to prevail -- Anderson.

COOPER: They certainly do. Tom, thanks very much for that RAW POLITICS. And when we come back, some final thoughts from Larry King.



OBAMA: I think it is important to leave. And I think, John, the fact is, is that I've opposed this war from the start. So, you're about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue. And I think it's important not to play politics on something that is as critical and as difficult as this.


COOPER: Probably one of the testier exchanges of this evening, Barack Obama, firing back at Senator Edwards -- who had criticized.

KING: It's nice to see.

COOPER: It's nice to see, you like that?

KING: Testy, testy.


KING: I'm supposed to close it all, formerly. By the way, if you missed nay of this, joined us late, at midnight tonight Eastern, we'll repeat the whole debate and the two hour-follow up, as well.

But instead of just closing as we would, you know, one of those formal closes, it's a special night. It's Anderson Cooper's birthday.


KING: And so let's all join. OK? How about it?

COOPER: No, no, no.

KING: Happy birthday to you -- All right, OK, that's enough.

COOPER: All right. Thank you. Thank you very much.

KING: Congratulations.

COOPER: I appreciate it.

KING: Great working with you, Anderson.

COOPER: It was fun.

KING: See you Tuesday night.

COOPER: All right. Tuesday night we will be here, of course, the Republicans will be here as well. All 10 of them arrayed out on the stage. Be sure to catch AMERICAN MORNING for the most news in the morning. That's tomorrow beginning at 6 a.m. Eastern. Join us again, here in New Hampshire.


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