Friday, September 26, 2003
Democratic Debate, La La, La La
Skip all the singing, let's get right tonight, Mami:

FINISHED: If they weren't expired already, all 15 minutes given each to Kucinich, Moseley-Braun, Sharpton, Graham, Edwards, and Lieberman are up. Also-rans, and all of them except Sharpton should drop out within a month's time. I'd like to see three pre-primary months of good debate between the real candidates. I'm still a fan of Edwards and Lieberman did much better tonight, but Edwards just isn't going to spark and Lieberman took a subtle, devastating punch from John Kerry.

KERRY MOVES OVER to the right, pushing Lieberman out of the capital-C Centrist spot. There's only room for one of them, and if it's between Kerry and Lieberman for the position Kerry wins hands down. It was an exceedingly smart move. Coming from Massachusetts, Kerry will carry a substantial middle-left to left vote just by that whole Massachusetts Liberal card, so courting the center might carry some further-right votes—say, in Iowa. Were I Kerry's team I'd start sweet-talking there: No matter how tough Iowa is, someone's got to win it, and if Kerry can't score with sweet, nubile New Hampshire he can at least pick up its less attractive roommate.

As for his performance in the debate, the post-game pundits seemed wowed, but I was annoyed by his time-hogging. Kerry doesn't do anger very well, and he picked up Gephardt's fight to take a cheap shot at Dean. There's this post-debate urge in the media to pick out the candidate who was the most "presidential," and last night on Hardball the consensus seemed to be Kerry. From their discussion, I can only conclude that "presidential" means "quite castrated."

GEPHARDT GETS HOT and I don't care. I don't like his populist message even if I'm effectively the sort of poor person to whom he caters. If the middle class tax cut stays or goes, if trade gets a little stricter or not—unissues on which Gephardt would like to distinguish himself from the other liberal lefty, Howard Dean. Were it not for the salvo he unleashed on Dean he'd be in the recycle bin as well. He's just too old-style Democrat, old-school politician, with all his one-liners. He's your dad trying to use "gnarly" in casual conversation.

CLARK...well... he ducked and covered when he needed to and I thought that the administrators (especially that WSJ prick) really kind of suggested that he was unprepared for a couple of questions only because everyone said going in that he'd be unprepared—an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy. I'll probably have more thoughts on C-Note, since he's the guy I'm watching most closely, but after last night I felt very much like I'd just judged a school debate function: OK, Good job, You could use a couple of tips here, Don't do that next time, Good-lookin' kid, You'll go far...

DEAN'S RABBIT EARS really surprised me. Less than a week ago he braggodociously claimed his votes/supporters were non-transferrable in the event that he loses the primary race, and here he pleads for the other debators to keep their eyes on the Party's prize. And even disregarding his earlier comments, he should have known going in that they'd be gunning for him. Though the Newt Gengrich comment was below the belt and basically isn't true, that's the game, and Dean seems genuinely affected by any quips on his character. It's not the first time he's reacted pretty strongly to some rather run-of-the-mill shit-talking. Gotta stay focused.

(Rabbit ears is a baseball term, by the way: A batter who can pick out each individual taunt from the bleachers when he's up to bat has rabbit ears. And someone else attributed it to Dean a while ago, but I can't remember who now.)

Damned good debate, though. Exciting stuff.

I can't wait to see Bush take on the victor.