This was a more interesting debate on CNN Sunday night than the previous one for the Dems, mostly thanks to the fact that John Edwards took the gloves off a little bit and took some shots at Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who was more than happy to hit back.

The obvious story line coming out of the debate was Edwards calling out Obama and Clinton for being mostly silent about how to handle the veto of the Iraq withdrawal time line, and then finally casting the “right” vote against what amounts to a blank check for President Bush: “There is a difference between leadership and legislating.”

Obama didn’t take that lying down. He pointed out that he was against the war from the start (although not in Congress at the time) and counterpunched Edwards: “You’re about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue.”

Clinton’s strategy seems clear: Blur any and all distinctions between herself and her top rivals and just try to run out the clock — and hope like hell that Iowa and New Hampshire don’t throw a wrench into that plan. That explains lines like this: “The differences between us are minor. The differences between us and the Republicans are major.”

I think that last point is one we can all agree on — well, except for Ralph Nader. But the differences between the top-tier Democrats on Iraq appear to be more clear after tonight’s debate. One interesting point was what Obama and Clinton both said about their top priority in their hypothetical first 100 days in the Oval Office: bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq. In other words, don’t expect the Congress to stand up to Bush any time soon.

NBC’s Chuck Todd has his take on who accomplished what Sunday night.

And here is some data from the Chris Dodd campaign about how much time each candidate got during the debate. Obviously, it pays to be the frontrunners.

Joe Biden: 7:58 10 questions
Hillary Clinton: 14:26 15 questions
Chris Dodd: 8:28 9 questions
John Edwards: 11:42 13 questions
Mike Gravel: 5:37 10 questions
Dennis Kucinich: 9:02 9 questions
Barack Obama: 16:00 16 questions
Bill Richardson: 10:48 11 questions

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