Quoting others' words seemed to be the theme of last night at the first Democratic Candidates Debate of the 2004 election season. Ironically held on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, this debate was an opportunity for the nine candidates to charge out of the gate and begin to position themselves for the primaries.
In my opinion, no one out-and-out shined. There wasn't really a chance to, with the field being so wide. The debate was divided into several portions (opening and closing statements, candidate-to-candidate questions, and moderator Stephanopoulos asking questions). I'll go through each of the candidates, in alphabetical order.
Howard Dean: I predict he will become the anti-war faction's candidate. Last night he didn't seem prepared and, to my eyes, looking for a fight that never came.The only times he's articulate is when he's attacking (be it Bush, Kerry, whoever). He should go far, but I don't see him getting the nomination as he stands today. He has mainstream potential though.
John Edwards: There's just something about this guy that rubs me the wrong way--perhaps because he's attempting to make himself a Clinton/Kennedy hybrid. His closing statement about his hometown was a poor imitiation of Clinton's "Hope" speech. In time, he'll be a magnificent senator, but even he's not sure where he stands on so many issues. I don't see him getting the nomination, but he could do well in the south.
Dick Gephardt: A nice enough guy, but not what the party's looking for right now. It's quickly becoming apparent that his 2004 campaign will be a repeat of his 1988 one--fast out of the gate, then dying off outside the Mid-West. He has a lot of potential money in labor unions, so he does have the ability to stick around awhile.
Bob Graham: I think the critics who say he is running for veep are correct. He got the most questions in the candidate-to-candidate portion--it was almost as if the others were quizzing him for a later time.
John Kerry: Someone needed to get this guy some tea. I'm not sure if he had a cold or what, but he just seemed sick and/or tired. He didn't get to speak much, but did get in a funny line and had a very good closing statement. His only problem could be catching the Dukakis Syndrome. He has a good shot at the nomination otherwise.
Dennis Kucinich: He clearly doesn't believe in the adage "you don't need to shout to be passionate." A one trick pony with no funding, he'll probably be one of the first out. I would tell him to drop it now so he can go back to doing work on behalf of the people of Cleveland.
Joe Lieberman: He has a good line in "Bush can be beat because Al Gore and I did it in 2000." He did pretty well, and if I had to pick a winner for this debate, it would be him. His name recogniction will help him greatly in a field as big as this.
Carol Mosely-Braun: People talk about Lieberman being the most nice--I would say Moseley-Braun is! She just radiates kindness, and looked like she was having fun the whole time. She's very articulate, but got into the race a little late.
Al Sharpton: He could prove to be the King of the Soundbite in this election. People will vote for him not only for his postions, but because he has a semblance of a personality. (In other words, he'll be 2004's answer to Jesse Jackson.)
LINE OF THE NIGHT: "We can't be Bush Lite . . . we've got to give people a choice." Gephardt
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