Hillary's on the Ropes (Part Trois)

Last night's New Hampshire debate doubleheader was a hungover political junkie's dry dream. With the Republicans taking the stage first for their 90-minute tilt, moderated passively by ABC's Charlie Gibson, it was literally like the JV warming up the podiums for the Varsity four. Mitt Romney is a truly loathesome candidate -- the Republican John Kerry in every imaginable way -- and it appears his fellow candidates find him just as annoying as this managing editor. Here's where Fred Thompson and his simple, smartass remarks made for great entertainment. Thompson's candidacy likely won't make it through the end of the month, but his laid-back jabs at Romney last night caused the flip-flopper to grow noiticably flustered onstage. He, not Hillary Clinton, most resembled Reese Witherspoon's character in Election last night.

Speaking of she who expected coronation, Clinton acquitted herself well on Saturday night. But she had to do more than acquit herself -- she had to land some clean shots to Obama's gut. But that didn't happen. John Edwards, for one, seemed to have Obama's back, much like Thompson ran interference for McCain in the JV race. I'm not sure where Edwards stands to benefit from this approach -- he's obviously not going to be the VP nomination after his failed effort as John Kerry's co-pilot. Bill Richardson, however, might be that guy. Self-deprecating to magnificent effect, Richardson cracked the best jokes of the night, and there were times he waxed so poetic on foreign and energy policy that his opponents seemed legitimately calm and mesmerized. Richardson is not without flaws (just ask Laura Onstot), and there are those who would argue that, for all his diplomatic experience, the former Clinton cabinet member has accomplished very little. But, as Mrs. Clinton would put it, he's "vetted," and his cool uncle personality might be the perfect complement to a more serioso commander-in-chief.

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