The big winner tonight was the format. Questions coming from real people. Yeah, the media (CNN) ultimately picked the ones shown, the universe they picked from was questions submitted by real people.
I went down to a local sports bar to watch the debate. I was told that a bunch of people were going to be there. The bunch turned out to be about 15 folks, and it was a pretty progressive 15 folks at that. Lots of Kucinich fans.
To my mind, John Edwards was the clear winner among the serious candidates tonight. I actually thought Joe Biden did pretty well, but it is hard to take his candidacy seriously. But Edwards was superb most of the night. He talked about taking power away from the special interests as the only way to get big change. He noted that we wouldn't get big change by trading our insiders for theirs. And his answers on Universal Health Care blew the top off the response meters.
Hillary Clinton abandoned the tag liberal, choosing progressive instead. John Edwards rejected reparations for slavery, but noted that there was a lot we could do to make up for the unequal treatment still occurring in our country today. He specifically mentioned predatory lending to blacks. Barack Obama also demurred on reparations, but suggested too that there were investments that could be made, particularly in education, to ease the disparities among the races.
Obama and Clinton got asked the race / gender question. They both tried to shrug it off with humor. Obama suggested that he proves his African American credentials trying to catch a cab in Manhattan. Clinton said she "had no choice" but to run as a woman. But John Edwards still came up with the best answer here. He told folks who were thinking about not voting for Obama because he is black, or for Hillary because she is a woman that "I don't want your vote".
Edwards again led in his answer to a question about who would be a better advocate for women. Edwards pointed out that the issues he stresses in his campaign, poverty and health care have a disproportionate impact on women. He stated that his issues were women's issues. Clinton pointed to her trip to China where she stated that women's rights are human rights.
Edwards got the gay marriage question and promptly fumbled it. He did say that it would be wrong for anyone to use their faith to deny rights to others. However, this was his weal est moment in the debate. Obama hit it on the head by stating that everyone should be equal under the law. As for marriage, that should be left up to the churches. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.
Edwards shone again on the health care issue. He has the only plan that mandates universal health care coverage. Hillary has the scars from trying in the early 90s. Obama tried to say his plan provides for universal coverage, but it does not mandate it. Round to Edwards.
I still think there are too many people on the stage. Biden, Dodd, Gravel and Kucinich have no chance to win the nomination. What are they doing up there? All they are doing is taking time away from letting us hear from the candidates who have a chance to actually win some delegates.
Floridians are going to have a real voice in the nomination process this time around. Our late January primary is early enough in the process for our votes to count in selecting the nominee. A new Quinnipiac poll has Hillary Clinton with a 22 point lead at 36% over Barack Obama and Al Gore who were tied at 14%. John Edwards registered only 9%.
Here are two things I don't know. I don't know if enough people are paying attention to these debates for them to make much of a difference in anybodies minds. And I don't know enough people who support Hillary Clinton to get her to 36% in a poll of people I know.