What happened
Hillary Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination head into a debate in Nevada on Thursday hoping to continue to chip away at her front-runner status (CNN.com), as GOP longshot Mike Huckabee gets stronger in Iowa polls relative to Republican front-runners Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani (AP in Google News).

What the commentators said
“Americans say they are weary of political polarization and pugnacity,” said George Will in The Washington Post (free registration). If so, it is “hardly inevitable” that the bareknuckled front-runners—Clinton and Giuliani—will end up being the ones their parties nominate next year.

Clinton sank in the polls after the last debate, said Gail Collins in The New York Times (free registration), after she appeared to waffle on a question about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s now-defunct plan to offer illegal immigrants driver’s licenses. Now she has to “prove that she can talk the straight talk.”

The immigration issue is just one area where Clinton is vulnerable, said David Broder, also in the Post. Her real problem is voters’ unease over “the two-headed campaign” involving Clinton and husband Bill, “and the prospect of a dual presidency.”

Giuliani has his own problems, said Dan Payne in The Boston Globe (free registration). His friend and business partner, Bernard Kerik, has been indicted for “lying” and tax evasion, and another business associated, Monsignor Alan Paca, is an accused child molester. “The man who brags about his executive experience may be the worst judge of character in the presidential field,” and that’s something voters might notice.