I haven't had a chance to put my thoughts together from the April 26 Democratic debate and the May 3 Republican primary. I've been typing up a lot of notes, however, and I've decided to post them now before the Democratic debate is a full two weeks gone. It's not as carefully organized as I'd wanted, and it's a bit long, so I'm dividing it into two posts. I'll save the Republican debate for a separate post or two later in the week.
The frontrunners on the Democratic side are Senator Hillary Clinton (NY), Senator Barack Obama (IL), and former Senator John Edwards (NC). I consider the second tier to be Senator Joe Biden (DE), Governor Bill Richardson (NM), and Senator Chris Dodd (CT). I would place former Senator Mike Gravel (AK) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) in a third tier.
Since I am not a Democrat, and I disagree so strongly with all the candidates in the debate on a number of key issues that came up, I don't think it's fair for me to present views on who won or who did best from a Democratic point of view. What I will offer are some views on who I think would be the least disastrous of a crew of eight candidates whose presidencies would all be a turn in entirely the wrong direction on many counts. I also have some thoughts on particular issues and specific stateements of individual candidates.
Overall, Hillary Clinton had the most to lose in the debate, and I don't think she lost much. She has been the frontrunner, and she still seems to be the first choice in most polling. Obama is very close in many polls, though, and he has even overtaken her in some. It's more difficult for a woman in a debate, since lower voices tend to carry better and sound more commanding to most people. She managed to convey authority without coming across in a way that many people would (for reasons not entirely good) take as sounding shrill and bossy. It's particularly difficult with someone with as commanding a presence and voice as Obama, and she passed that test.
What surprised me especially is that I came away thinking of her as one of the less-disastrous candidates in terms of policy. I think I'd prefer Biden in several ways, and I didn't get enough sense of some of Dodd's views to know where he stands with respect to her, but I think she'd beat out any of the other candidates on the criterion of policy alone. I do have serious reservations about putting another Clinton in the White House at this point, given that it would mean the Bush and Clinton families would then dominate the American presidency for a sum total of at least 16 and perhaps 20 straight years. That kind of dynastic hold of two (albeit competing) families is not a good thing. I'm so concerned about this that I'd put Dodd above her in my preferences even without knowing where he stands with respect to her on some key issues. After them come Richardson, Obama, Edwards, Kucinich, and Gravel.