My thoughts on the Democratic debate tonight:
First, the frontrunners (Clinton, Obama, Edwards) certainly played it very safe. I suppose you could say that they approached it in classic politician format: not giving any definitive answers. Playing it careful is probably a good idea, but it’s giving too much ground for the fringe candidates to grasp onto. The fringe candidates, in my mind, went a bit wild. Former Senator Gravel might as well be running under the Pat Buchanan platform, with the energy and vigor that can only be matched by a Klan meeting in regards to immigration. I found this bit particularly rich, given he’s from Alaska, which has literally zero experience in dealing with immigration from Mexico.
Second, the Clinton-Obama difference became incredibly noticeable during the debate. Obama’s campaign has so far been operating on the belief that informing voters of the decision-making process is more important than discussing past decisions. Clinton is much more focused on showing a track record of success and experience. It’s honestly way too early to decide which style will win out, but Clinton’s is more alienating, while Obama is more vague.
Third, I thought the big winner amongst the fringe candidates was Senator Biden. He seemed a bit Howard Dean-esque, but was authoritative and confident without actually screaming too loudly. His answer to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” question was amazing. Senator Dodd seemed wild, Kucinich was his typical violently leftist (and lovable) self, and Richardson dodged questions (on immigration of all issues) and was too held back. I suppose the loser of the night was Former Senator Gravel, but the man is so far behind anyway that he’s essentially already lost.
And was it just me or did Clinton come out a bit too strong? Given she’s been a clear frontrunner for a while now, she was speaking as if she had ground to make up. I honestly think the loud, aggressive, and borderline angry style won’t be seen as passionate and instead strengthens her alienating image.
The Republican debate is going to be really fun to watch. I can see the comedic effect of Tom Tancredo already.