Watched the Donkey debate on CNN last night, here's what I got from it.
Right off the bat, Wolf Blitzer took a shot at Fox News by saying "there will be no bells, no flashing lights" to signal the end of the candidate's time to speak. In fact, Wolf did a horrible job keeping the candidates all in line, and you ended up with some periods of visual and audio chaos, with cameras attempting to keep up with who was saying what. Anderson Cooper could've done a better job, and CNN did need a bell/buzzer/light of some kind.
Immigration was the shortest-debated issue. I really feel that the Democrats are attempting to let the Republicans tear each other apart on this issue. Politically-speaking, this is a smart move on their part. None of the candidates seemed enthusiastic about the issue, not like they were about Iraq and health care reform.
On to the candidates, and where they stand in the race...
- Mike Gravel is the Democrat version of Ron Paul. He represents a small minority of his party, and is very passionate about what he says and believes. For the first half of the debate, Gravel was pretty subdued and calm, except for a few bursts of "Gravel-mania". The second half of the debate, he let loose the "angry old man" persona. Gravel has been out, but he's at least good for pointing out the problems with all of the other Democratic candidates. Especially when they bring up all of these wonderful new programs, like paying for college educations, and have no plan to pay for it.
- Dennis Kucinich (or as I call him, "The Mistake from the Lake"), is the Democratic Party's version of a really radical Tom Tancredo, a two-issue candidate who needs to speak up to be heard on other issues, because he otherwise gets drowned out. Kucinich looks like a spineless puppet, and I don't think that's what the Democratic voters want. He's fine where he is, one man amongst hundreds in the House of Representatives. Kucinich might find himself as a cabinet member to a Dem president, but that's it. Kucinich is out.
- Christopher Dodd seemed to be debating for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Nothing that stood out to me. He seemed to have the same points of view as your average Democrat, with nothing to distinguish him from the pack. He's a possible VP pick if the Dems can't get two "stars" to work together on a ticket. Dodd has a "talk clock" that shows who got the most speaking time. Dodd, unsurprisingly, is near the bottom...but look at the difference between Gravel and the rest of the candidates. It's good for a laugh.
- Joe Biden was maaaad as hell, and he wasn't about to take it. However, it doesn't seem like the voters are going to take it from him, either. Biden showed fire and intensity, which was lacking in the last debate, which was more of a virtual lovefest between the candidates. However, I don't think Democrats WANT a leader that is this angry. Then again, Biden did draw a lot of attention to himself, and if he can tone back the anger in the upcoming debates, he may draw more support. Many people know that the "D" in Democrat stands for Dark Horse, and I think Biden is emerging into that role.
- Bill Richardson pulled a Tommy Thompson/Jim Gilmore and repeatedly referred to his tenure as Governor of New Mexico. While it's good to lay out your credentials, most voters want to also hear what you plan on doing, not just what you have done. Richardson, who has had some momentum because of his notable campaign ads and his credentials as a politician, did not impress last night. Richardson right now is barely in there, but is most likely vying for VP or a high-ranking cabinet post.
- John Edwards, despite all the praise from the Democratic bloggers, really didn't say much that would appeal to swing voters. He noticeably left his "war on poverty" platform at the door, as many people believe that he doesn't know anything about poverty beyond the trailer park across the street from his sprawling estate. He tried too hard to endear himself to the Clinton and Obama supporters by repeating his apparent praise and admiration for various proposals by the two frontrunners, without pointing out why his proposals are better. Edwards is still in, but from listening to Democratic voters on C-SPAN, they didn't seem impressed. To me, Edwards looked like a boy amongst men.
- Barack Obama did very well in this debate. He was a bit more articulate and detailed than I had previously seen, and seemed poised, confident, and at ease both standing up and sitting down. Obama focused on his credentials, but did not dwell upon them too much (which is smart, given his relatively limited amount of political experience). By formulating his health care reform plan, Obama shows that he can get down to creating actual plans of action, instead of simply speaking in broad tones of "hope and prosperity". I also like that Obama emphasized that by letting the Bush tax cuts expire, he's only letting them rise to Bill Clinton-era levels, and has no immediate plan to increase taxes beyond that (we'll see, Barack, we will see). Obama is definitely in.
- Hillary Clinton actually did pretty well, in my opinion. She moved herself closer to center than the rest of the Democratic candidates (which isn't saying much, really), and stated that although she plans to increase taxes, she too doesn't plan to go beyond the levels of her husband's administration at this time (as I said with Obama, we'll see if that continues to remain true). However, she has enough appeal to pull moderate voters in the primaries...but she may very well lose those voters in an election if the Republicans put up a good candidate against her. Nonetheless, Hillary is definitely in.
I got what I expected from this debate. A lot of near-unanimous finger-pointing at Bush, tons of gaggle over attempts to create universal (read: Government-run) health care, and promises that taxes will go up.
What did you think?