A Republican Strategist Evaluates The Democrats’ Debate Performance

Talked to a Republican strategist who watched the debate. His assessment:

If it had been a radio debate, I think Chris Dodd would have won. He seemed to have the most substantive answers that fit the time available…
I was underwhelmed by Obama. He didn’t live up to the hype or his public image…
Hillary didn’t accomplish what she needed to do tonight, which is persuade people she’s a likeable person. She still has time to do that, but she didn’t make much progress tonight…
Gravel should not have been invited. He didn’t treat his colleagues with respect…
Edwards botched the moral leader question. I counted five solid seconds of silence. I don’t know how you do that, how you can be that unprepared for a debate as a presidential candidate. Pretty uncomfortable. I know it was only five seconds, but it felt like a minute…
I think Biden did a very good job. To be perfectly honest, when he talks about foreign policy, and talks with some level of economy, he sounds more wise than other Democrats running. He won the three second clip on the nightly news by prudently saying “yes” to avoid gaffes. He made me chuckle, and I don’t really like him…
Kucinich is probably wasting people’s time, but I hear he does fill moderately sized room in New Hampshire, so there are Democrats out there who want to hear his message. If he’s still on stage several months from now, they may need to recalibrate.
On that last exchange, I don’t think Obama should have engaged those two guys. It made him seem smaller. [Gravel and Kucinich] are the first two people you’re gonna draw a red line through. He’s sitting here engaging on whether he’s gonna nuke Iran with two nutty guys. His handlers were probably thinking, ‘just end it, just end it, disengage!’

This strategist noted, and I concurred, that even though Brian Williams only offered the question about a hypothetical terrorist attack on two American cities to one or two candidates, all of them came back to it and emphasized their willingness to use military force to defend America. The strategist wondered if they were inadvertently confirming Rudy’s charge, by feeling the need to emphasize that they’re a bunch of dovish wimps. I wonder if every candidate had “look strong on terrorism” on their mental to-do lists, and felt the need to make sure they checked that box before the night was through.

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