In the build-up to the sixth Democratic presidential debate this year, there were high expectations for every Democratic candidate not named Clinton to come gunning for the frontrunner. Perhaps the fireworks were not quite as bright as the pundits had predicted, but there was no doubt that Sen. Hillary Clinton was taking some heat from her opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination. The rest of the field (and the moderator) kept Clinton on defense for most of the evening, though nobody seemed to be able to land a clean punch that posed any serious harm to Clinton.
After Sen. Clinton once again described her failed battle for universal healthcare in the 1990s as "kind of a lonely fight," Sen. Obama responded by saying, "If it was lonely for Hillary, part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, was because you closed the door to a lot of potential allies in that process." The Obama campaign later pointed reporters to comments Senators Bill Bradley and Pat Moynihan had made about then First Lady Hillary Clinton's approach in dealing with the Congress on her proposed. healthcare reform package.
Sen. Edwards attempted to draw a clear distinction between himself and Sen. Clinton on a Senate vote to declare Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. Sen. Clinton voted in favor of the resolution. Edwards sided with Sen. Dodd and Sen. Biden who voted against that resolution today and went on to say that he believes he and Clinton learned very different lessons from their 2002 votes for the Iraq war. "I have no intention of giving George Bush the authority to take the first step on a road to war with Iran," Edwards added. (Sen. Obama was not present for the vote on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.)
Sen. Dodd and Sen. Biden were both probed about their past statements concerning whether or not they believe Sen. Clinton is too polarizing to govern effectively as president. Sen. Dodd, in what is becoming a pattern, was far less aggressive on television than he has been in written press releases distributed by his campaign.
Sen. Biden again claimed that the baggage from the political polarization in the Clinton years is likely to hang over a President Hillary Clinton and make accomplishing compromise on big ticket items -- such as universal healthcare -- far tougher for her than for many of her opponents. "And I'm not suggesting it's Hillary's fault. I think it's a reality that it's more difficult, because there's a lot of very good things that come with all the great things that President Clinton did, but there's also a lot of the old stuff that comes back. It's kind of hard," said Biden. "When I say old stuff, I'm referring to policy -- policy," Biden added lest viewers think he was referring to impeachment or Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton handled the incoming fire from her opponents and from the moderator with determined confidence and appeared mostly unruffled by it.
She did, however, seem to lose some steam towards the end of the debate in the lightening round where she was faced questions about the transparency of donors to her husband's library and foundation, suggested she and her husband may differ on their answers to a hypothetical scenario about torture, and seemed to waffle on her baseball team allegiances when she said she would probably have to alternate sides in a hypothetical Yankees vs. Cubs World Series.
Sen. Clinton did try to turn the slight awkwardness -- when it was revealed she and her husband disagreed about the torture hypothetical -- into a lighthearted moment by saying, "Well, he's not standing here right now. . . Well, I'll talk to him later."
Eloise Harper and Raelyn Johnson contributed to this report