411's Democratic Debate Wrap Up
Posted by Jason Easley on 06.03.2007
The Democrats had their second debate on Sunday night in Manchester, NH. I'll tell you what happened, and who I think the biggest winners and losers were.
Debate preview show
We did a special 30 minute debate preview show that you can listen to with the player below.
The Democratic debate wrap up
The 2008 Democratic presidential candidates met in Manchester, NH on Sunday night for their second debate. This debate started off with a bang as the issue of Iraq was the first to be discussed. John Edwards took both Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) to task for their recent votes against funding the war in Iraq. "They went quietly to the floor of the Senate, cast the right vote -- but there is a difference between leadership and legislators, Edwards said.
When asked By Wolf Blitzer to name names Edwards replied, "Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama did not say anything about how they were going to vote until they appeared on the floor of the Senate and voted." Obama quickly replied, "The fact is that I opposed this war from the start. So you're about 4 1/2 years late on leadership on this issue. And, you know, I think it's important not to play politics on something that is as critical and as difficult as this. It is not easy to vote for cutting off funding, because the fact is, there are troops on the ground."
Sen. Chris Dodd, who drew praise from Edwards for announcing early that he would not support the funding bill, said that his vote was, "the right thing to do." He also said that it was time for the country to move beyond this war, and "pursue and push this issue of having a date-certain tied to funding." Hillary Clinton got off to a bad start when she ripped off Rudy Giuliani by playing the 9/11 card after she was asked whether or not she agreed with John Edwards that the war on terror was nothing more than a "bumper sticker slogan." Clinton said, "I have seen firsthand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists who are intent upon foisting their way of life and using suicide bombers and suicidal people to carry out their agenda, and I believe we are safer than we were."
The Democrats also talked about immigration, but that discussion turned into a debate about whether or not English should be the official language of the United States. Only Sen. Mike Gravel thought that it should be. Gravel said, "We speak English. That doesn't mean we can't encourage other languages. I speak French and English. People speak Spanish and English. But the official language of the United States of America is English." The two hour debate covered a wide range of subjects including the war in Iraq, veterans' health care, universal health care, immigration, Iran, energy policy, Darfur, mandatory military service, balancing the budget, gas prices, what role Bill Clinton would play in a Democratic administration, and gays in the military. On the subject of the don't ask don't tell policy, Biden said, "This is ridiculous and by the way we've got a war on our hands we're trying to end and in the meantime we're breaking the military," Biden said. "9,000 of these people have been kicked out. This is not a rational policy."
Unlike their Republican counterparts, the Democrats refused to take part in any 24esque scenarios. As far as their debate coverage goes, CNN took a few lessons from the Fox News GOP debate, but not necessarily the good ones. CNN did try to slant the talk time in this debate towards Obama, Clinton, and Edwards. As you can see from the Dodd campaign's clock talk table, the Democratic Big 3 got a lot of the air time.
Notice that Bill Richardson got 10:48 of talk time. It should be noted that most of his talk time came from ignoring the time limits again, which leads me to Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer once again demonstrated why he should not be allowed to moderate an elementary school bake off, much less a presidential debate. One of the reasons why this debate ran behind schedule was that Wolfie B was terrible at enforcing the time limits. Much like the Fox debate, CNN tried to stir up conflict between candidates, and yes, we know that MSNBC used show of hands questions. They did it because they were running late; CNN did it to be cute. I would rather hear candidates talk about the issues, over watching them raise their hands.
Also their set change took almost triple the amount of time they said it would, thus, deprived candidates of talk time. Here is an idea. Why not have the chairs on stage already behind the candidates, so that you have to remove the podiums for the town hall portion of the debate? Note to both Fox and CNN there are not supposed to be intermissions or commercials during debates. If you need to put either into your coverage, then the debate is too long. Overall, this was a much better performance from the Democrats as a group. They looked more relaxed and less rehearsed than last time, but some candidates were better than others, so let's look at the winners and losers.
Winners and Losers
John Edwards - Yet another solid performance for the former NC senator, the man is passionate about his issues and unlike in 2004, he has more going for him than the two Americas rhetoric. He earns major points for discussing his ideas in a clear way and differentiating himself from his rivals. Although, he didn't get as much TV time as Obama and Clinton, he used his time well. His campaign has been gaining in the polls and it is easy to see why.
Hillary Clinton- She had a much better performance than the first debate, although much of this was due to the lack of a prolonged Iraq discussion. However, the flag waving and war on terror stuff must stop. She tried to sell herself as the leader of the Democrats by using phrases like, "All of us on this stage or all Democrats" often. This is the kind of thing that hooks casual voters. Her seven mentions of Bill Clinton's name were a bit much. In this debate, she looked and acted like the frontrunner.
Joe Biden - Joe had a really good night. He finally started to show why his supporters are so passionate about him. His answers on don't ask, don't tell, getting Osama, and especially Darfur were outstanding. Biden finally delivered a strong performance where he looked less like a senator, and more like a potential president. He gets major bonus points for talking about the need for publicly funded elections.
Mike Gravel - Gravel just kept doing his angry old man thing. His point out follow the special interest money was right on. Democrats don't like to talk about it, but they have their hands in the kitty just as much as the GOP. Plus his idea for a program where people do public service in exchange for free college tuition is pure genius.
Barack Obama - Obama's campaign has been in a real slide for the last month or so, and this debate didn't help things. The problem with Obama is that he agrees with Clinton and Edwards too much. His votes are like Clinton's. His plans are like Edwards'. Obama said nothing memorable in this debate, and to me he is starting to look like he isn't ready for the big time.
Bill Richardson - I think Bill Richardson began every answer with, "When I was governor of New Mexico." We get it. You were a governor. You have executive experience. Richardson possesses the ability to talk way past any time limit, all the while babbling on about something that has nothing to do with the question. He is getting really annoying.
Dennis Kucinich- His answer about how he would rebuild the military by cutting it was weak. Dennis did stick to his liberal principles though and say that he would not assassinate, but instead capture Bin Laden and haul him into international court. That kind of answer doesn't play well with Mr. and Mrs. America, but I give Dennis loads of credit for sticking to his beliefs and not pandering for votes. He has my respect.
Chris Dodd - I was set to put Dodd in the winners section until his campaign sent out a press release in the middle of the debate crying about the lack of airtime Dodd was getting. Dodd got 30 more seconds than Joe Biden. The difference between the two candidates is that I remember what Biden said. Remember, it isn't how much air time you get, but what you do with it that counts. Biden improved, but Dodd didn't. Plus, Dodd wants to keep earmarks, and pork barrel spending. That sounds like a senator talking, not a president.
Agree or disagree? Send me an email with your winners and losers. I'll be back on Tuesday with the news, and Tuesday night with the GOP debate wrap up. See you then.