For those of us who caught only snatches of the Republican debate on CNN (I witnessed the deeply edifying moments when the candidates were asked to comment on the Confederate flag), the morning wrap-up must suffice:

Plants: Several of the questioners appear to be affiliated with Democratic campaigns. A member of the Clinton taskforce on gays posed a question on gays in the military, while others appear to have Edwards or Obama ties.

No matter the origin of the questions, they were almost all on “exactly the issues, in the view of liberals and many in the media, on which Republicans look particularly unattractive. And there were two questions by African Americans premised loosely on the notion that blacks get nothing from Republicans and have no reason to vote for them.”

National Review’s Campaign Spot took a similarly dim view, nevertheless opining that John McCain won last night “for what it’s worth:” “The candidates seemed prickly, on edge, eager to go on the attack… the questions ranged from the pedestrian to the flat out bad, and the opening song, which was supposed to be funny, only confirmed everybody’s worst fear that the YouTube factor was going to bring an element of American Idol’s open auditions to this night. Like I said earlier, there’s room for this wackiness in midsummer, when we’re six months out and the race could use a change of pace. But this is crunch time, and having questions and introductions from attention-starved wannabe entertainers just enhanced the sense that this format can devolve into a colossal waste of time.” =