To answer our own questions about the Democratic presidential candidates' debate today, the last one before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses:
- Will the candidates figure out ways around the format to create more fireworks than the soporific Republican debate on Wednesday?
They didn't really try. They reserved their fire for Republicans and the Bush administration.
- Will moderator Carolyn Washburn, the editor of The Des Moines Register who has been panned by some pundits for being if anything too earnest, try to liven things up by allowing candidates to address each other directly, or at least ask more provocative questions?
The format was achingly similar to the GOP debate, and there was little of the back-and-forth that spiced up previous Democratic debates.
- Will Hillary Clinton, in a dogfight in Iowa and now in New Hampshire as well with Barack Obama, go after him, or will she shy from direct attacks because of some negative feedback?
She played nice. The closest she came to criticizing Obama was when she declared that while some hope for change, she works hard to make it happen. But even then, she didn't call him out by name.
- Will the lower-polling candidates -- like their Republican counterparts -- find the sober tone and substantive format to their liking and get far more air time than in prior debates?
Yes. Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson all had more time on camera to talk about policies and show some of their personalities.
- And will Dennis Kucinich, who is being frozen out of the debate on what his campaign calls a technicality, try to crash the event, or at least add the Register to his impeachment list?
No. Kucinich was entirely absent.