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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Thoughts on the ABC New Hampshire debate

Just some random points from the Democratic debate tonight. For some reason, my bullet-points aren't working, so here they are in paragraph form:

John Edwards is becoming a single issue candidate--lobbyists are bad, lobbyists are bad! He also can't go five minutes without an anecdote about the middle class. Most come back to his father. It makes me sick. He may be from a middle class family, but he's worth millions now. Doesn't mean he can't be the champion of the average American, but stop acting like you're some impoverished kid working 18 hours at a mill.

Hillary Clinton is trying to become a candidate of change because of the Iowa results, but her entire campaign is based on her being the experience candidate. Now that it's known that people want change over experience, she's trying to alter her image. She's actually been very articulate tonight, but I don't think anyone is blinded by this new persona she's taken on.

Bill Richardson looks very tired. The campaign is taking its toll. And while he's making fine points, he's not as inspiring as he has been in the past. I like that he's staying on message, but he's described as an emotional and charismatic guy--and in most cases, he is--but on the biggest stage yet, I'm afraid that he's squandering his chance to make a real change in the voters' minds. He's subdued and while his points are substantive, he is, frankly, quite boring right now.

Barack Obama doesn't seem as slick as he was a few days ago. He's avoiding questions left and right. The questions, for once, are tough, and he's not responding well.

I liked the final question ("You've done a number of debates. What do you wish you could take back?"). But I'm surprised that anyone answered it--why bring a dead issue back to the forefront? Richardson talked about Byron White being his favorite justice, and Edwards said how sorry he was that he mentioned Clinton's attire. Obama and Clinton avoided the question.

There are two ways to judge the debate: substance and style. In terms of what was actually said, I think Richardson won. He stayed on point and raised a number of issues (energy dependence, budget balancing, education) that will take center stage over the next four years and beyond. No one else said...anything. Obama side-stepped every question to talk about change, hope and bipartisanship. Clinton spend the entire debate remodeling herself as the candidate of change, and Edwards spoke more about his father than he did American politics.

However, Richardson seemed close to sleep for most of the debate. Obama, who seemed to be playing defense for much of the contest, was good, but nowhere near the inspiring figure he was Thursday night, when he gave one of the most impassioned political speeches of the decade. Clinton and Edwards were what they were: politicians who speak well and look good. They were fine.

All the candidates disappointed me, though. This was their biggest debate yet, and some of the questions were pretty good. But they either avoided them or answered them with responses that put you to sleep.

Let's hope for more positive showings in the future.


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