Democratic Debate: First Take

More

Everyone had a good debate.

(Campaign pull-quote compilers, take note.)

But who did best? The audience is undecided Democratic caucus goers. Who stood out? Who was different? Who seemed most presidential? Who parlayed their strengths? Who gave people reasons to believe in the negative stereotypes about them?

On balance, Clinton and Edwards.... Why them, and not Obama? Because Clinton and Edwards repeatedly wove their answers into a larger argument, and Obama generally kept his answers to his answers. He did well though. No calls, Chicago. No calls.

Repeatedly, Clinton cast herself as a champion of middle class material concerns. “They feel as though they are standing on a trap door,” they said, and If you listened carefully, you heard her say that she would raise taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.

Almost every other phrase out of John Edwards’s mouth contained the words “corporate power..” or “entrenched interests.” And Edwards wasn’t aggressive. He wasn’t angry Johnny. He was nice Johnny boy, although he did snip at the moderator at one point and couldn’t resist a jab at Bill Richardson.

Clinton’s opening statement was very strong and pointed.

“Everyone wants change. Some believe you get change by demanding it, and some believe you get change by hoping for it. Some believe you get change by working hard for it. That’s what I’ll do as president."

It’s a great line. But in saying this, she conceded that she was scrounging on territory claimed by Obama and Edwards. Also, Iowans don’t like lines. They like nice. Saccharine even. Pure rhetorical glucose, though, and not a sugar substitute.

Biden, Dodd, and Richardson. Exceedingly mature, gave folks on the fence about them a reason to keep liking them, but neither stood out enough to move too many votes. Richardson had some strong, early, detailed answers on balancing the budget (he thinks it’s feasible immediately, others don’t) and on budget priorities, and on education.

Biden turned a tricky question about his penchant for gaffes into a very good moment wherein
Obama personally attested to his hard work on behalf of racial justice. Iowa nice.

Say what you will about the format, the graphics, the moderator, the theme music, the staging, the stage lighting: every candidate had enough time to be strong, and every candidate was.
To the extent that it matters, Fox News’s dial group loved Edwards and not Hillary Clinton. (They also liked Obama.)

The Register’s editorial endorsement is set to drop on Sunday

Jump to comments
Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Technicolor Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In