Debates in politics always strike me as paradoxical. On the one hand, everyone knows that what a candidate says in a debate has little to do with actual performance in office. On the other hand, a debate does provide us, the voters, with a sense of the candidate’s persona, perhaps even soul. And, often, this sense comes less from what the candidate says and more from how the candidate says it.
By that criterion, I’d say Hillary was the clear victor in last night’s Democratic debate on MSNBC. She seemed comfortable, clear, and in control. Not that anyone else seemed out of control – with the exception of former Senator Gravel – but Hillary Clinton projected the most Presidential tone.
Barack Obama and John Edwards were ok, but not as assured and incisive as Hillary. Since Hillary is the front-runner, this is not good news for either man.
As for the rest, Joe Biden gets creds for the best one-word answer – “Yes” – in response to a question about whether he could keep his verbosity in check. And his praise of Hillary may have won him a place on the ticket as VP, if Hillary gets the nomination.
And MSNBC gets praise for the way it ran this debate – with the exception of several questions in which candidates were asked to raise their hands. The camera-person or the director must have been nodding off – it was almost impossible to see who was raising their hands – at least, on my television screen.
It’s still early days, and a lot can go right or wrong for any of the candidates. But Hillary came across as cogent and even dynamic in a tough field, in which a misstep could have boosted the prospects of Obama or Edwards. If she keeps this up, she’ll be hard to beat in the primaries next February.