The First Debate: Grading The Democrats
General observations: the front-runners didn’t suffer any huge gaffes, but they were pretty unimpressive for the most part.
Mike Gravel: F-. My God, what a nut…anyone who watched that debate and would still consider voting for Gravel must be a blood relative. ‘Nuff said about this VERY marginal candidate.
Dennis Kucinich: B. Kucinich is a blazing liberal and half a socialist, but he was well-composed and had good answers to all the questions he was asked (not answers I agreed with, mind you, but responsive answers). (My beagle was very impressed with Kucinich, but then again, she always goes for the underdog).
Bill Richardson: D-. After this truly atrocious performance, I don’t want to hear anyone talk of Richardson as if he is a serious candidate ever again.
Barack Obama: B+. If it weren’t for his strength on the Israel question and the Iran question, he would be worse. I was extremely disappointed in Obama’s performance. A couple of his answers were downright non-responsive. A marginal loser for the night, because so much was expected of him, though he gained steam towards the end.
John Edwards: C. A down-the-middle, bland score for the ultimate down-the-middle, bland candidate. There is a lightweightness about Edwards that I don’t believe he can ever shake.
Hillary Clinton: B. Because of her front-runner status, and because Obama did not do better, I think she gained a little tonight (though she did not win the debate – more on that later). Hillary does indeed, however, have a simply awful speaking voice, but she basically treaded water, and that might be all she needed to do.
Joe Biden: C. Biden got the night’s biggest laugh – but from what? The failure to answer a question that has dogged him throughout his career (basically, does he have the integrity to be president?). Biden pretty much stunk otherwise.
And the surprise winner: Chris Dodd: A. Dodd impressed me mightily. He was the grown-up in the room, he was composed, but more than that, his answers had substance behind them. Dodd came across as everything a senator should be: intelligent, compassionate, and creative in his thinking. His only miscue (and the reason he didn’t get an A+) is that he stumbled on the difference between gay marriage and civil unions. I doubt very seriously we agree on very many policy issues, but if Chris Dodd were the next President of the United States (based solely on this debate, I stress), I would feel in very capable hands…
And a big raspberry for no one asking the nuclear terrorism question, though Obama gets extra marks for bringing it up himself in the context of Iran…