As usual, Yglesias gives a great breakdown of Dem debate last night commenting as I did that, for the most part, the proceedings were civil. However I disagree a bit with his final paragraph:
"Few big disagreements about big ideas are in play on the Democratic field. For now, most liberals find that consensus heartening, but we may come to regret it if it means that the eventual winner emerges into the field of battle without having really tested his or her arguments against a candidate willing to draw sharp lines of contrast."
I think MY fails to take into account that this race is going the distance and that these debates are turning into weekly recaps, summarizing and capping the overall political attitude of the moment. In that case, what you saw from the Dems last night was a lull in their warfare, attempting to ease the racial tensions of the last week, which was a negative for everyone. Considering that the policies of the Dems as compared to their GOP opponents are so cut and dry, what they're really running on, in these primaries, are their intangibles (likability, personality, etc) and narratives that they're trying to establish: Obama the unifier, Edwards the Fighter, Hilary the Experienced. To that end I think they did a decent job in their rhetoric, but they just lacked the enthusiasm to get us to hear it.
Oh, by the way, am I the only one getting tired of having Tim Russert moderate these debates? He's enough to put anyone to sleep.