Bill Schneider’s take on last night’s Democratic debate:
MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) - It's obvious who the Democrats think will win the Republican nomination: They’re all talking about who will run strongest against John McCain.
This is new - and it's likely the result of his South Carolina win on Saturday. Now each of his potential general election opponents is laying out their strategy to beat a Republican candidate who has repeatedly shown he appeals to independents.
At the CNN/Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate in Myrtle Beach last night, Hillary Clinton held strong on her mantra that she's a fighter who has withstood the "Republican attack machine." Barack Obama and John Edwards, on the other hand, stressed their broad appeal to voters not usually inclined to vote for a Democrat.
And Obama injected Iraq - his strongest issue - into the debate, saying he can draw a powerful contrast with John McCain on the issue. On the other hand, McCain is likely to win any debate on national security - it's his strongest issue too, and he speaks on it with a degree of authority that virtually no other politician has.
Edwards got himself back in it last night - he showcased his style and his key issues, and is clearly back in the game. He showed he continues to deserve to share a debate stage with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama; thanks to that performance, voters here in South Carolina will likely give him another look heading into Saturday’s primary vote.
The debate also showcased the remarkably different primary strategies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. She's going for the partisans that have historically constituted the overwhelming majority of primary voters. This is clear over and over again in her language, every time she talks about "fighting Republicans."
Obama, on the other hand, talks a very different game - he repeatedly said last night he can forge consensus, and will work with Republicans.
Clinton's strategy of going for the partisans in the primaries has shown itself to be a winning one time and again. But this election season has been anything but normal - and it's possible that after eight years with one of the most partisan presidents in history, even partisan Democrats want a consensus builder.
Clinton is running as the anti-Bush, while Obama is running as the un-Bush. Which will primary voters prefer?
–CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider
Meanwhile, post-debate: What were they talking about?
Hillary Clinton and John Edwards met privately backstage following a very contentious Democratic presidential debate in this coastal city, sources with both campaigns confirm to CNN.
The meeting took place in the Edwards campaign green room.
One of the sources said the meeting happened by chance and the conversation consisted of light chatter. The source added that Clinton did jokingly take a jab at Edwards about his beating up on her during the debate. In fact, the real fireworks were between Clinton and Barack Obama.
An Edwards source noted that it was not surprising the two senators met backstage.
"That happens back there,” said the source, who said it has happened “more often” with Obama. “It’s tight quarters – we’re all on top of each other.”
The question is - with only two weeks before Super Tuesday - what else was discussed?
–CNN’s Candy Crowley and Mike Roselli