For cumulative ratings on the 2008 candidates, see Cumulative Scorecards for the 2008 Democratic Debates.
Undeclared 2008 possible retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark has polished his speaking skills since his aborted 5-month run for the 2004 presidential race, but a slight wooden-feel still emerged when he veered from military talk.
He began his remarks by exuding "It feels great to be a Democrat these days!" and paid obligatory homage to party leaders Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and DNC Chairman Howard Dean. He also touted his extensive campaign trail support for 2006 Congressional candidates.
Except for a few stray statements, the entirety of Clark's speech was eloquently focused on the Iraq War and its soldiers and their families.
He touchingly asked for a moment of silence for the sacrifice of Iraq War soldiers, and disdained fellow candidates who espouse "poll-tested positions on the war."
And in his only allusion to HIS 2008 candidacy, General Clark dubbed himself the only candidate who's actually done the things we need to get out of Iraq.
Other than the Iraq War and the armed forces, Clark briefly mentioned poverty, exorbitant CEO pay, health insurance, unequal pay for women and "tax cuts during war time for those who are sacrificing the least." But no dissection of the issues, and certainly no proposed solutions.
The Verdict on Clark: Not sure if Wesley Clark is running for president, and not sure he has credibility on any issue except military matters and foreign policy. Also, Clark has never been elected to public office.
Barring another catastrophic 9/11-style tragedy that could catapult him to the leader board, look for Wesley Clark on everyone's vice-presidential short list.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina
(See cumulative ratings at Rating John Edwards - Cumulative Scorecard for the 2008 Debates.)
Ebullient and glowing, John Edwards started his remarks with 6 consecutive wrenching stories meant to touch his audience's heart and win their loyalty (and vote) for his willingness to "stand up for them."
Yup. Six consecutive stories... a hungry girl, a hotel worker with no health insurance, a young man who can't afford college, the mother of a dead Iraq War soldier, 2 brave orphans, and a beleaguered father whose young daughter is sick but he doesn't have health insurance.
All red "victimhood" meat meant to enrage the DNC masses, and many devoured it up with sheer, glutinous delight.
Edwards later repeatedly roused the crowd to its feet by exhorting, "Will you stand up for them? Will YOU stand up for them? WILL YOU stand you for them? Because if we don't stand up for them, who will?"
John Edwards' remarks, though, were long on emotion and dramatic storytelling, and woefully short on details or solutions. These are serious matters that require thoughtful analysis and answers, not cheerleading routines.
He talked about supporting unions and organized labor, but never mentioned U.S. trade policies. He goaded Congress to not be satisfied with passing nonbinding Iraq War resolutions, but told NBC's Tim Russert the same weekend that he wouldn't necessarily cut funding for U.S.soldiers.
His biggest crowd cheer was when he jeered to George Bush that the president is not the Decider, "The American people are the Decider."
The Iraq War was briefly mentioned, but less so than by any other candidate. Universal health care was often alluded to, but not his recent statement that taxes should be raised and the deficit ignored to provide that health care.
Near the end of his lengthy appeal, Edwards proclaimed, "This is not the time for political calculation. This is the time for political courage."
Problem is... while these issues are undoubtedly dear to John Edwards' heart, his speech seemed like one big poll-tested political calculation. And without a trace of courageous action, or even much of a track record.
One small oddity: Edwards is using a baby boomer-era Bruce Springsteen tune as his theme song, just as John Kerry did in his failed 2004 effort. Dump the Springsteen stuff, Mr. Edwards. It has little appeal among the under-40 crowd. It's their parents' music.
The Verdict on Edwards: Bottom of the first tier, behind Senators Clinton and Obama, and slipping.
John Edwards may be leading the polls in Iowa and the darling of the more liberal NetRoots/Ned Lamont wing of the Democratic Party, but that won't last for long if Mr. Edwards doesn't move beyond superficial emotionalism and into logical policy and practical, workable ideas.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio
(See cumulative ratings at Rating Dennis Kucinich - Cumulative Scorecard for the 2008 Debates.)
Dennis Kucinich's speech was poignant and spiritual, and he entered and exited the podium to a touching rendition of "America the Beautiful". I wish every Democrat, and every American, could listen to his DNC Winter Meeting 2007 haunting plea for peace.
But Rep. Kucinich's speech had little to do with a campaign for the 2008 presidential race, because he has no chance to be the Democratic nominee.
In his remarks, Kucinich briefly mentioned his long-time proposal for a cabinet-level Department of Peace and Non-Violence, and he reiterated his call for single-payer universal health care insurance and Medicare for all Americans.
He also rightfully pointed out that he voted against the Iraq War in 2002, and has consistently voted to defund the Iraq War.
In the late 1960s, the newly established Peace & Freedom Party was an active, viable alternative political party that fought against the Vietnam War and urged universal free and equal access to education and health care.
Dennis Kucinich would have been the perfect Peace & Freedom Party candidate for those granola times. But Rep. Kucinich has been left behind by the post-9/11 world.
The Verdict on Edwards: Bottom of the heap, and not rising. He knows that, and is OK with it, because he and new wife Elizabeth (mentioned constantly in his speech) are getting their peace message out there.