So where has all this left me? To find out, you'll have to follow me below the fold.
I started with the premise that
There are two top level criteria I am going to use to evaluate the candidates. The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their ability to win the general election.To get to the general, one must first win the nomination, no? I had a list of things I was looking at in the candidates:
- Values projected in the Message
- Stance on issues
- Fundraising ability
- Staff competence
- Primary strategy
- Does this candidate make me feel it?
So I started with Hillary Clinton. I found a lot to like in the values expressed in her speeches. I called her vote for the AUMF in Iraq
The albatross around Hillary's neckI wondered
Is she doing the right things now regarding Iraq? Is it enough to overcome her initial vote and her continued refusal to admit a mistake?
I noted her strength in fund raising in the first quarter. I also talked about having people around her who had made it all happen before. My biggest concern was her ability to win the general elections, should she win the nomination.
What's changed in the past few weeks? Hillary's performance in the first two debates. She has been the hands down winner in each debate so far. She keeps that up, she just might make a believer out of ...?
Next up was John Edwards. I really liked the values expressed in Edwards speeches. He still has the most detailed policy pieces on the issues of any candidate. He is foursquare for ending the war in Iraq now. Edwards did not match the stunning amounts raised by Clinton or Obama. He did raise enough to continue to execute his plan. And his plan to win the nomination (he's leading the polls in Iowa, still) is a good one. Here's what I wound up saying about Edwards:
John Edwards message and values reaches me. His call for One America, his stance on Iraq, and his ability to clearly communicate his values resonates with me. ... Edwards would be a nominee that I would be excited to support. And best of all, Edwards can win the White House in 2008.What has changed in the last few weeks? Edwards has stayed mired in third in the national polls. He had a better debate in New Hampshire than he had in South Carolina. I had a personal experience with the Edwards campaign in Florida this weekend. At the Florida Democratic Party's big Jefferson-Jackson weekend, the Edwards campaign didn't look like it could organize its way out of a wet paper bag. They sure didn't have a clue how to organize in Florida. And it showed.
So that leaves Barack Obama from the top tier. I also really liked the values expressed in Obama's speeches. I noted his "somewhat less forthright" stance on Iraq, despite his having initially opposed the war. Obama has not laid out many detailed positions on the issues. However, his values translate pretty well into the stances on issues that he does talk about. Obama raised a ton of money in the first quarter, stunning nearly everybody. He has surrounded himself with some very experienced campaign operatives. At the end, here is what I had to say about Obama:
There is a lot to like about Barack Obama. His message of working together to solve our problems, to turn the page does resonate with me. The values expressed in his speeches are my values. I'm more than a little concerned about his unwillingness to let those values guide him in his current views on Iraq. It concerns me all the more because on other issues, he has not laid out any measure of specificity on how he would proceed. In sum, Senator Obama has not closed the deal with me at this point.Has anything changed in the last few weeks? Obama has not exactly helped himself in the debates. He is stuck in second behind Clinton nationally. And he has slipped into third in Iowa behind Edwards and Clinton. Obama did show an organizational presence in Florida this weekend. And if anybody wants to see a passionate plea by a surrogate, get hold of the videotape of Congressman Bob Wexler speaking for Obama this weekend.
I did review Bill Richardson. He has the potential to break into the top tier. However, he has not helped himself in either of the debates so far. And his near melt down on Meet the Press did not help him any either.
As stated earlier, I reviewed the Final Four. Enough said about them.
So, where does that leave me. The candidate who I worry most about general election electability (Clinton) seems to be easing some of those fears in me. Some. Not very many, but some. The guy I seemed to like the best (Edwards) is going nowhere fast nationally, but still has a viable plan to win the nomination. He needs to get better organized (and soon) in some other states than Iowa though. Otherwise Iowa could turn out to be a pretty empty victory. Obama seems to have peaked (for now) in the polls. However, there are recent hints he could have another stunning fund raising quarter. That would certainly keep the buzz going awhile. Richardson is still stuck in single digits and the other guys are still nowhere.
Speaking of nowhere, I am nowhere nearer to figuring out which candidate to get behind than I was six weeks ago. Is Al Gore running?