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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Final pre-IA Dem Debate

I watched the Des Moines Register Democratic candidate debate partly out of sheer curiosity–to see if the Register or its editor and moderator, Carolyn Washburn, adjusted to the savage criticism they received after yesterday’s GOP debate.
They did, to some extent; there was no prohibition on discussion of key issues, and relatively little “Nurse Ratched” scolding of candidates for violating petty debate rules. But the format remained one that provided few opportunities for candidate interplay, pretty much letting them broadcast their messages to audiences in Iowa and elsewhere. There was also, as occurred yesterday, a heavy focus on the Register‘s peculiar obsession with fiscal policy.
Given that basic framework, the debate enabled the Big Three to sharpen their central pitches. HRC got in one very good defining line, though it may have been too subtle for many viewers: Some demand change (Edwards), some hope for it (Obama), but I know you have to work for it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her develop that line in the next three weeks.
But Edwards and Obama got to strut their stuff more often and more effectively. If it’s possible to hone a message into a blunt instrument, Edwards has done so with his anti-corporate theme, which he reinforced with almost every breath. And Obama achieved a nice balance between his wonkiness and rhetorical uplift. In the Frank Luntz focus-group reaction to the debate on Fox, Edwards and Obama scored very well. Indeed, it was a good reminder of how little attention regular folks pay attention to campaigns that several focus group members seemed happily surprised by Edwards’ I’ve-fought-corporations-my-whole-life routine, which us political junkies have heard him do about 5,000 times.
The other candidates, denied any chance to spark a fight, did the best they could, with Dodd touting his experience, Biden his expertise, and Richardson his folksiness and resume (though he seemed to have been surprised by the Wen Ho Lee question). The only candidate who had a really bad day was Dennis Kucinich, who was excluded.
The only other points worth making were again by Luntz, who noted (a) that his Dem focus group participants were vastly more positive about all the candidates than the GOP focus group he convened yesterday, and (b) that all his research in Iowa convinces him that the Democratic turnout on Caucus Night is going to be very, very heavy. Regardless of how that affects the outcome on January 3, that’s a good omen for Democrats next November.
UPCATEGORY: Democratic Strategist

One comment on “Final pre-IA Dem Debate

  1. ducdebrabant on

    Washburn really needed to needle Biden with a list of gaffes, in order to find out whether or not he hates minorities? She really needed to rub Dodd’s face in his father’s fall? Some substantive questions were asked, but I’m sick of this tabloid approach. Biden’s record is clear and Dodd’s deep-seated psychological motivations are none of this dame’s business. Fortunately Obama came to Biden’s rescue and Dodd didn’t care to trash his own father, so all the egg was on HER face.


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