Hi - I don't know if you caught the Democratic debate tonight on CNN. I thought it was an interesting affair, and, unlike many of these things, thought it provided a little insight into the character of some of the candidates. Overall, I was initially put off by the framing by the moderators of the "attack Hillary" theme -- they set the questions up specifically to pit the candidates against Hillary. While it makes for good theater, I didn't find it all that useful, at least not the early questions. But it did turn out to be useful after all, later in the debate - it forced some of the polite walls down, and revealed some interesting contrasts. My impressions:
Hillary - Robotic & flat. While she never lost her composure, she also didn't put forward any specific answer to any question, and indeed seemed bothered by the attacks by Edwards, and to a lesser degree, Obama. I thought this put her in stark relief to the other candidates, who had some very specific things to say about Social Security (Obama), Dodd (education), Kucinich (highlighting vote differences) and Richardson (immigration and energy). Did not look so good explaining her support of NAFTA. I thought this was her worst performance to date.
Obama - Came off polished, specific and not willing to be pushed around, and scrapped it out with Hillary over health care. His best moment of the night was calling out Hillary on her lack of specificity regarding Social Security. He also didn't cop out and pick security or human rights as one being more important than the other - they are inextricably linked. Only one to think of that -- and I was surprised to hear both Dodd and Hillary say that security was more important than human rights. Also good on immigration, and the false debate we have over the drivers licenses.
Edwards - unfortunately came off as somewhat shrill; he had a lot of truthful things to say, and he said them - but it was also unclear what he would do. He had a bad moment when Kucinich called him out on China's entry into the WTO, and he couldn't really explain why he had supported it (unlike Biden, who claimed the WTO carries teeth against China if we would only use it). I still like a lot of what he said, and his presence in the race has focused the candidates on health care, and moved the debate somewhat to the left.
Richardson - seemed like he really knew what he was doing. For the first time, he appeared like the executive that he is - his answers on Iraq were concise, his energy answers were specific (renewables to 30% by 2020, etc.) His answers on immigration were also specific, and he didn't stumble over his words like he's done in the past. Seemed very competent.
Biden - he's become very charming in these debates, but is comfortable generally in one area - foreign policy. When he's talking foreign policy, he sounds great. Anything else, I can't understand what he's talking about. Looked good, though. He's running for Secretary of State.
Kucinich - Seemed more dour than usual, but I do like him. Great moment when he put that broadside to Edwards on China's entry into the WTO, and he got a few more digs later, too. I don't know what came over him, but he seemed to have decided he'd had it with Edwards and gave him the ol' 1-2.
Dodd - Ah, Dodd - the good ol' Yellow Dog democrat. I've grown to like him over time, and he seems to have his heart in the right place. But boy, when he said that he'd support security over human rights, I was a little taken aback. He tried to fix that later. Like Biden, he's good in one or two areas - today, he shined when talking about education. He's also good about civil rights, and his Spanish turn put him into a light that separated him from the pack when it came to solidarity with the Spanish speaking community.
Cheers - now's the time to be paying attention - voting is February 5 in California. I've not settled on a candidate yet for certain, but do know that I will be voting for a Democrat in November 2008.