Bad news for Hillary out of the gates at the NPR debate. The moderators just announced that there will only be three topics discussed over the next two hours: Iran, China, and immigration. Iran's obviously tricky for Hillary in the aftermath of Kyl-Lieberman. Immigration is, too, though it's arguably tricky for everyone. But the big problem is no health care, which is where Hillary was groping for a foot-hold against Obama.

Hillary just fielded the first question on Iran. I could see the new intelligence revelations on the Iranian nuclear program cutting either way. On the one hand, it will ultimately make the issue fade a bit, which benefits her. On the other, it could make her Kyl-Lieberman vote that much harder to defend. In particular, it could make the charge that she's too trusting of the Bush administration that much more damning. (Edwards alluded to this, without mentioning Hillary, in his first response.)

Update: Hillary throws some elbows on Iran (albeit defensive elbows), saying Obama and Edwards both took a hawkish line on the country's nuclear program before it became politically convenient to hit her on it.

Update II: The absence of a health care discussion wasn't just bad for Hillary, it was bad for the entire debate. I appreciate that NPR was trying to bore in on three big-deal issues, and I give them points for that alongside the frequent tawdriness of the televised debates. But since this is, you know, a competition, why not pick some issues where the candidates actually have some differences? Once the Iran questions ended, there wasn't a whole lot separating one candidate from the other. Not the most productive use of their time or voters'.

--Noam Scheiber