10:26 pm: And that’s the ballgame. Takeaways? Probably the least interesting debate in terms of meaningful distinctions. Clinton and Edwards were very good, Obama more spotty but better as time went on. Again, Gravel shoots from the hip. And we saw an emerging argument from Biden, building on the Supreme Court shifts. See you next time, and tune in for more in tomorrow’s Note.
10:25 pm: Gravel ends with another bomb: Most of the other candidates lack "moral judgment." Dodd’s everybody’s friend, so he offers a pat on the shoulder.
10:23 pm: Richardson not backing down from his Olympic boycott threat: "I believe that fighting genocide is more important than sports." Strong line.
10:20 pm: What’s with Clinton and her lists? Is that how her mind works, or do you coach that? And that’s some tough answre on Darfur, about a no-fly zone: "If they fly into it, we will shoot down their planes. That’s the only way to get their attention."
10:19 pm: Kucinich gets big applause for saying he wants to end NAFTA. That can’t be comfortable for Clinton, whose husband championed the trade agreement.
10:14 pm: Maybe Obama’s getting better as the night goes on – he’s finally offering a few specifics. And Gravel is making it interesting again – "these people." Derision is good television.
10:11 pm: Welcome Handy – you’re becoming a regular. My call for a winner right now is Clinton – she’s crisp, concise, and specific. Edwards also is having a good night — and these are his wheelhouse issues.
10:02 pm: Good answer by Obama: "The criminal justice system is not colorblind." But his answer is "to send a signal"?
9:59 pm: Nothing provokes verbal tap-dancing like asking a Democrat about taxes. The goal: sound progressive without providing the RNC with talking points.
9:56 pm: I’m with you, dawgler — Clinton is having another good night, even though the format and the questions aren’t making for winners and losers.
9:51 pm: Biden perked up some ears: "I got tested for AIDS. I know Barack got tested for AIDS." Obama prompted laughter: "I just want to make clear – I got tested with Michele."
9:48 pm: Leave it to Clinton to summarize the first half of the debate: "It is hard to disagree with anything that has been said." But then she hits another one out of the park by pointing out how differently HIV/AIDS would be addressed if white women were afflicted in equal numbers as black women. Outstanding.
9:46 pm: I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but offering up the same questions to all the candidates gives plenty of room to them to sound off on their messages. Already, Edwards has found a chance to say "two Americas," and Clinton was able to say, "It takes a village" — the title of her book.
9:41 pm: John Edwards did read up on his statistics. And we get it: He wants us to know that he’s always talking about poverty. Still, he’s crisp and on his game tonight.
9:39 pm: That’s a legit question about Obama — two times through and not much being offered.
9:35 pm: Three times now a candidate has suggested that we should cut military spending to pay for education. Good applause line in liberal crowds, but it’s sort of a play to the cheap seats, isn’t it?
9:31 pm: Bill Richardson doesn’t want to talk about how to pay for any of his plans – he’s the guy who has the universal healthcare plan that won’t cost a dime.
9:30 pm: Talking to your kids helps them? Bet Joe Biden’s kids are smart and well-adjusted.
9:27 pm: I’m beginning to wonder about the format here – we’re now nearly a third of the way through the debate, and we’ve gotten through precisely one question, and have had precisely zero interesting exchanging. It’s nice to include everyone, but c’mon…
9:22 pm: Biden wants to push the Supreme Court issue – this follows a statement earlier in the day touting the fact that he voted against Roberts and Alito. Then Obama’s first chance — it was almost like the crowd didn’t know he was finished — maybe because he had said so little?
9:16: Clinton gets the first question — and the first mention of today’s court ruling and Katrina. "The march is not finished" — good imagery. About as good an answer as you could hope for.
9:13 pm: Sounds like something of a home-field advantage for Obama. . . .
9:00 pm: Quick thought on the man making the introductions tonight — Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass. This won’t be the last we see of him in the campaign. Mitt Romney’s successor is the nation’s only black governor, and one of the most sought-after endorsements of the campaign. He’s close to Sen. Barack Obama but was a high-ranking member of the Clinton Justice Department, so he has ties to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as well. My money’s on Patrick eventually going with Obama.
8:45 pm: Thanks everyone for logging on. Some interesting comments already — and on the immigration issue, I’m certain it will come up tonight. Every Democratic senator in the 2008 race voted in favor of the bill today, for the record.
Rick Klein from ABC’s The Note here — I’ll be blogging live during tonight’s PBS debate, starting at 9 pm ET. Let’s start the discussion early: What questions do you want to see answered tonight at Howard University in Washington? Leave you comments below, and tune in starting at 9.