MANCHESTER, N.H. --
Ten presidential candidates (six Republicans, four Democrats) will pull up swiveling chairs and take to the very same debate stage Saturday night in Manchester for two of those encounters on the presidential calendar that merit circling in bright red (and blue) magic marker.
ABC's Charles Gibson has a bit of a different format in mind for the evening than we've seen in previous encounters -- more genial than gotcha, like a very chatty (and very well-lit) kitchen table. But the candidates will surely provide the fireworks: In this excruciatingly brief window between Iowa and New Hampshire, subtly just doesn't work.
The dynamics would be different even if the format was the same: We have the time crunch, of course, but we also have new frontrunners: "Barack Obama enters Saturday's Democratic debate as the undisputed front-runner with a bull's-eye on his back -- and a humbled and hobbled Hillary Clinton itching to open fire," writes the New York Daily News troika of Michael McAuliff, Ken Bazinet, and Michael Saul.
The Republicans get their 90 minutes first, starting at 7 pm ET from Saint Anselm College and broadcast live on ABC nation-wide -- good entertainment while you're staying up late waiting for returns from the Wyoming caucuses (and you know who you are).
The Democrats kick off shortly after that -- following the photo-op of all photo-ops: All 10 on stage at once, sharing handshakes and awkward conversation.
The aftermath of the Iowa earthquake wasn't pretty for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. The takeaway from the "100 Club" dinner Friday night in Milford, N.H., is simple enough to give Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., another round in the scorecard: Clinton was booed, while Obama's supporters were so energetic that organizers were worried about the security situation.
"Three thousand people packed the auditorium and it seems like there are many more Obama supporters than Clinton supporters," ABC's Eloise Harper and Sunlen Miller report. "It was not Clinton's best performance."
And this was not the headline she wanted out of her first post-Iowa day: "Hillary Booed at NH Democratic Party Dinner." "When Obama, the dinner's last speaker, took the stage the crowd surged forward chanting 'O-bam-a' and 'Fired Up, Ready to Go!' " Time's Jay Newton-Small reports. "So many people pressed toward the stage that an announcer asked people to 'please take their seats for safety concerns.' By comparison Hillary was twice booed."
Clinton didn't even wait for her flight to land in New Hampshire to start changing her campaign's message. "I think everybody needs to be vetted and tested," she told reporters upon landing. And this, which Sen. Barack Obama's campaign should read as a warning: "I'm not doing this as an exercise."
Yet one Democrat with close ties to the Clinton campaign tells The Note that Clinton won't run any negative ads against Obama, out of a fear of a backlash in this hyper-politicized crunch between Iowa and New Hampshire.