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Democrats Square-Off in Vegas Debate; U.S. Envoy Puts Pressure on Pakistan

Democratic candidates debated their policy views in heated exchanges in Thursday's Las Vegas debate and political turmoil engulfed Pakistan, straining its relations with the United States. Analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks look at the week's news.

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    And finally tonight, the analysis of Shields and Brooks. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields is reporting from Las Vegas tonight. New York Times columnist David Brooks is right here.

    Mark, what did you think was the most important thing that happened last night at that debate?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, first of all, Jim, I think the atmospherics of the debate changed it. Unlike Philadelphia two weeks ago, where the audience, there wasn't a peep heard from them, last night the audience became major players. They cheered their favorites; they booed their opponents; they applauded. It became rather raucous at times.

    And as a consequence, I think the candidates began speaking almost in partisan terms to the crowd in the hall. And if you were an independent, or a disaffected Republican, or just an interested citizen watching, I don't think you got the sense of a debate last night, as much as you got a series of political rallies.

    So I think, in that sense, it was less productive. It may have been more helpful for Republicans than it was for the Democrats. But I think we in the political business love to use geologist terms, the fault line in a candidacy, or somebody went into a landslide…


    The ground is moving. Did the ground move? Right, right.


    Well, the erosion, the alleged erosion in Senator Clinton's candidacy following the Philadelphia debate two weeks ago was stopped. I mean, her performance, I think, reminded voters why she's so formidable, reminded the press why she's so formidable.

    She's smart; she's poised; she's articulate; she's knowledgeable; and she's tough. I mean, she delivered a punch right at the outset to John Edwards, and he, quite frankly, was reeling from it.


    Do you agree with that assessment, David?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    Yes, I guess, with my pundit hat, we pundits, we're only supposed to pay attention to the top three. And then we're supposed to measure their body movements 45 degrees this way and that way. And I guess, thinking about it in those terms, she did certainly halt the slide. I'm sorry, again, a geographic metaphor, but she certainly did.

    She'd had a bad few weeks, a whole series of things that happened to her. And what she did was she showed that, a, as Mark says, she can hit back, but even against Obama, and there was a crucial interchange there where his main charge against her is she doesn't give a straight answer. And then on the issues of driver's license for illegal immigrants, he actually didn't give a straight answer. And she took advantage of that, in a series of cases. And generally her opponents backed off after the first 10, 15 minutes.

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