I sat through the whole forum and again, I didn't think there were any huge moments but the difference between the two events was striking. Compared with the leaden presentations and the testosterone heavy, spitting contest on the GOP side, the Democratic debate looked like a lovefest and was indisputably more interesting.
I was bit put off by the opening statements. Too much buying into the GOP crisis meme on terrorism, but they soon allayed my fears with a lot of straight talk on the issues and there was much said that was comforting. I especially appreciated the talk about rolling back the executive overreach of the Bush administration, restoring checks and balances and of course the pledges to close Gitmo and bring the troops home.
I purposely haven't read any reviews, except for one post this morning, so as not to color my own impressions and I'm declaring it pretty much a draw because there just wasn't a whole lot of glaring differences between the candidates. Other than Edwards strong language on breaking the corporate stranglehold on the process, which I understand played well in Peoria, nothing much stood out. I don't know that it will give Edwards much of a bump in the long term though. In many ways he has the best rhetoric, in fact, his positions have been the best right along, but there's just something about his stage presence that feels weak.
To the extent that anyone lost, I think it was Hillary. She came across as the most combative, bitchy almost, and her rhetoric just always feels weasely. She didn't overcome the perception that she's trying to get away with playing both sides of the issues, with me anyway. And Obama definitely scored the point on their little snarky exchange over Obama's advisors being drawn from Bill Clinton's former coterie.
Obama did really well throughout. Whatever experience he lacks on account of his youth, he's gaining some chops from the rigors of the campaign and projected a sense of being a seasoned politican. I'm not sure that's a plus with me, but I think it will help him in Iowa.
For me, the best part was hearing from the second tier candidates that have been shortchanged in the previous 'debates.' In that sense, I would declare all of them the winners in having had the opportunity to get their message heard and using the time well. I can't help but think if the media gave them all more of the kind of equal coverage we saw yesterday, the rankings would be much different today.
Again, I loved this format. It's the most fair to everyone and Carolyn Washburn still has my vote as best moderator of the season. I thought she was just terrific.