Let me Preface this by saying that I live in New Hampshire and will vote in Tuesday's Primary.
This was a very entertaining debate.
I should explain that I went into the debates thinking I would vote for either Hillary or Obama. I've always leaned toward the Republicans and am in fact a registered Republican, but I tend to vote on the issues, not with a party and eight years of Bush, the moralistic Christian Conservative high horse the Republicans have been riding, and the gazillion tax dollars the Republicans spent to investigate Travelgate, Monicagate, and whatever else they investigated during the Bill Clinton years purely in the name of partisan politics have soured me on the Republicans. (And have had me soured on them for quite some time. I'm a registered Republican who did NOT vote for George W Bush in either election).
I've joked that John Edwards looks too much like John Ritter as Jack Tripper for me to ever vote for. Can't you just see him getting caught in an innocent act that looks bad to Mr. Farley or Mr. Roper? Anyhow, for a while he impressed me. His whole thing about his father and grandmother working in the mill touched me, his whole thing about fighting the drug and oil companies appeals to me. Going into the debate I felt that he was a rich tort lawyer who wants to be President. Learning last night that he grew up poor and has a little substance to him got him a few points with me. Sadly, the fact that he seemingly has little else to say besides those things slunk him back down in my book. Had he trotted out the mill worker's son story, then vowed to fight the PACs and Lobbyists, then talked about OTHER things of substance, he might have moved up in my book.
At this point I should mention the Rielle Hunter issue and some background. I think it's insane that we impeached President Clinton for his dalliance with Monica Lewinski. That was a bazillion tax dollars to lawyers, and time spent away from work for a lot of our law makers, in a partisan effort to discredit an otherwise successful president. That should have been between Clinton and his wife, period. Clinton has never held himself up as a super Christian or a religious leader, he led a country and did a good job with that, end of story. The exception to the "it's between that person and his or her spouse rule" is when the dalliance is with a minor or farm animal, or when the person in question has held themself up as pillar or moral perfection. Religious leaders who make their living telling people how to live their life have to walk the walk. Senators and congressmen who cater to the Conservative Christians or who openly take stances against homosexuals and then are subsequently caught in a homosexual tryst, these are the people whose liaisons deserve to be exposed. Clinton's affair with Monica should have been between Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, not the United States Congress and Senate.
However- There are internet rumors swirling about John Edwards and Rielle Hunter. This one does bother me because I think it's kind of crappy that he's running for President while his wife has cancer, and if he's sleeping with this woman to boot then it's even crappier. I only mention this because on the dais last night we had both a woman scorned in Hillary, and Edwards. They showed his wife in the audience several times and I thought of these rumors every time. As I said, Edwards' performance was good, his homespun appeal to fight for the middle class based on Grandma's 5th or 6th grade education was moving, but he doesn't have enough substance for me anyhow.
Bill Richardson- I didn't realize he was still in the race until he walked onto the stage. We're flooded with calls from all of the candidates here in New Hampshire these days (though the phone is strangely quiet today) but Richardson hasn't called at all. I thought his performance was actually quite good. If he could have shut up a few times instead of repeating the same things "we need to fix healthcare, we need to improve education, we need to..." I would have been more impressed. Telling us his resume of having stared down North Korea and being the only candidate on the stage who has balanced a budget several times was unnecessary. If he had made those points and moved on, he would have done better with me. Like Edwards, he hit the same drum too many times. Unlike Edwards, he had more drums to hit. When the WMUR guy asked him what he would do as President since he had little success as Secretary of Energy, Richardson was actually impressive in cranking out some specifics. His earnest comment about how he would take back his praise of Wizzer White in an earlier debate actually made me laugh out loud, and his defense of "experience" when Obama and Edwards were talking about being agents of change was great. Watching the debate I thought that there were three polished politicians up there and Richardson, who was earnest but out of his league. When he said he would ask the president of Pakistan to step aside it seemed like he was a child playing at politics (as did Edwards when he talked about hunting down whoever set off nukes in an American city). I know that he's got the resume to know what he's talking about there (unlike Edwards) but it took him so long to make his point and he repeated himself so often I was just hoping he'd shut up after a while. I did like his points on America's need for some sacrifice- we need to stop driving gas guzzlers and build more rail.
Barack Obama is incredibly gifted. His answers with smooth and his words eloquent and delivered with thoughtfulness and sincerity that is incredible. He will make a good President someday, maybe soon. I was impressed by him going into the debate, but I would like to see less "from altitude" (Edwards used that phrase) and more concrete nitty gritty proposals. I know that a President is largely a figurehead and Obama would hopefully leave the actual planning to experts in each field while he just rallies the people around the ideas. Coming out of the debate, he may have my support.
Hillary Clinton did well, I think. I was glad to see her ask for a "reality break" when Edwards and Obama were talking, and she hammered home that she actually, of the three leading candidates, has a long record in the public eye. I was pleased that she pointed out that her husband had actually been a good President in terms of effecting change and that she had to go through that with him. I thought she looked tired or angry at the start of the debate, but that she perked up as it went on. I was afraid that she might come off as a little bitchy to the people of New Hampshire, a notoriously fickle place. I especially liked that of ALL the candidates on the stage, she was the only one who actually answered the questions that had been asked, frequently bringing the discussion back to the actual questions instead of the campaign stumping others went off on. Her "here's 5 things quickly off the top of my head" with regard to one of the questions was impressive. I was pleased that she mentioned that she has been an agent of change and actually gave examples, and that she mentioned that electing a woman president would certainly be a big change.
Coming out of the debate, not much has changed for me, except that Hillary probably has my vote in the primary wheras before I was undecided between she and Obama. She gets the edge over Barack Obama because of her experience in politics, which she did a good job of reminding me of in last night's debate.