The debate is over. It was an interesting experiment that ultimately, in my view, failed. It is great to have questions from viewers, but the singing rednecks, the talking snowman, the hip-hop No Child Left Behind questioner all were beneath the dignity of a Presidential debate. I hope that when CNN holds its Republican You Tube debate in September, it is a bit more serious. On to the winners / losers:
*Clinton- As in all the other debates, she was the most Presidential and was very compelling. The Senator's handling of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton question was masterful. It is clear that any foreign policy question that she gets she answers through a general election scope, and is more knowledgeable than any other candidate except Biden. She got more mileage out of the Edelman letter and also made Elizabeth Edwards look petty for her comments last week.
*Biden - I just find Joe Biden awfully well spoken and brave. It is not a popular thing to do in a Democratic debate to throw water on Richardson's "get out now" rhetoric on Iraq, but it is responsible. In fact (again from a general election perspective) Biden and Hillary! are the only candidates who, throughout the primary season, have shown responsibility and measured ideas for exiting Iraq. They are both plausible commanders-in-chief. Biden makes me wistful: what might have been had it not been for that Neil Kinnock ugliness in 1987...
* Edwards - I will begrudgingly admit that John Edwards improved his standing tonight. In fact, his debate performance was just okay until the health care question came about. His answer on that question was fantastic. His frustration was, I am sure, contrived. His well-known financial security makes any personal concerns about health care remote for him. All of that aside, it was compelling and for perhaps the second time in five years of watching John Edwards, I was moved by something he said. Usually he gives me the creeps.
Obama - I know that we are six months from the Iowa caucuses. I know that a lot can happen between now and January. I know that he is the great hope of the nation (note the sarcasm), but Obama needs to make a break if he is to stop the increasingly inevitable Clinton nomination. He does attack her a bit, but it is too nuanced for it to make any impact at all. His debate performance tonight was about the same as the others-- just okay. He also needs to start speaking with some specificity about something -- anything. His buzzwords are tired. "Fighting cyncism," "hope," "fundamentally changing Washington" are just words. Without a plan of action, they do not a platform make.
We learned that he is against the war, against deficits, against underinsurance, and is against- gasp!- child molestation. What a marvel! Somebody please rewrite Profiles in Courage! The more of Obama I see, the more embarrassed I am that he is going to even be perhaps the silver medalist in this contest. He simply is not qualified- period. With greater exposure, the more it shows. Hillary made him look foolish for his answer on diplomacy with Iran and Syria. Oh, and ABC caught him exaggerating. LINK
Richardson - He wants to be in the top tier so badly. In the debates, he looks unprepared, ill-informed and uncomfortable. He was borderline inarticulate at times. Senator Biden made him look dangerously ill-informed on his Iraq withdrawal "plan." The Richardson "plan" (essentially to run ripshod out of Iraq in six months with no residual troops) would cost lives both because of the rapidity of the withdrawal and because of the lack of protection for American civilians remaining. Richardson seemed not to have considered this, where a commander-in-chief would have. That is Richardson's problem right now--he appears to be not *quite* President material.
UPDATE: 11:09 PM - The reaction from the debate has begun to flow in:
Hillary wins the InstaPoll from SurveyUSA. Link (And has favorables 10% higher than Obama).
John Edwards hated Hillary's jacket, and says so.
Um, and Mitt Romney had this to say. I really hope that the Republicans nominate this moron. I'm thinking 40 state landslide for Democrats if they do.