January 23, 2004

Last night's debate was the first I've had the pleasure to watch from the comfort of my own living room. Like most of my more conservative brethren, the candidate I was most impressed with was Lieberman. He stuck to his guns, and made a valiant effort to justify his position on the war while still building an anti-Bush case on other issues. The candidate I'm currently leaning toward, Edwards, was unimpressive; as with Clinton and Reagan, I don't feel debates are the format best-suited to their strengths on the hustings, but with time, I hope that Edwards will be able to improve enough so that it won't hurt him, either.

Kerry is as dull as clay-court tennis, but is an acceptable face at the top of the ticket if it appears that Bush is going to win anyway. In that sense, he's the Democratic version of Bob Dole, or a modern version of Walter Mondale, a candidate that doesn't hurt the party down the ticket (btw, is there such a thing as a "French" look, or is that simply a rather subtle way of making reference to Kerry's religious background?). And I actually like the fact that he is so disliked by insiders; it was one of Clinton's great strengths, the fact that the Beltway Establishment, from Sally Quinn to Mr. Samgrass, all hated him.

One way you can tell whether someone has their pulse on what moves Democratic primary voters was how they felt about Dean and Clark. Dean has already been written off following his mediocre performance in Iowa, and his Whitmanian yawp afterwards, but he's still the candidate with the most in the bank, and in the best situation organizationally [link via Atrios]. He can afford to lose a couple early primaries and keep going (unlike, say, Edwards, who is pretty much done unless he wins South Carolina in two weeks), racking up delegates and praying for a momentum shift, in much the same way Mondale got his ass kicked by Gary Hart for a couple of months in 1984 before turning the tide after Super Tuesday.

General Clark didn't do anything last night to either help or hurt himself, to the chagrin of his legion of haters in the blogosphere. The bizarre notion that he would be hurt by not repudiating Michael Moore's description of the President as a "deserter" is one that could only be held by Bush's more sycophantic admirers (and I say that as perhaps the only left-of-center, blindly-partisan, Bush-hating blogger who thinks the President has received a bum rap on that issue), akin to believing that Republican voters were turned off in the last decade by references to Bill Clinton as a "draft dodger" or "rapist". The typical Democratic primary voter does not listen to Rush Limbaugh, and is impressed, not discouraged, by the fact that Clark has a nuanced, non-ideological opinion about the war in Iraq.

In any event, the highlight of the evening had to have been the question asked of Rev. Al about who he would pick to be the next Federal Reserve chairman. It was clear that he was thinking about the issue for the first time as he was answering, and it may have been a reminder to him that his campaign is not supposed to be a serious one for the White House.

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