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The Democratic Candidates

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This is the first time I've paid much attention to the US presidential contest. But this time around a combination of being a West Wing fan and a passing comment from a customer (who, like me, is something of a politics nerd) that he had been up all night watching the Iowa caucuses and was very impressed with Barack Obama sparked my interested.

I'd never heard of him so yesterday I spent some looking at the candidates and watching a lot of video, especially of Obama but also of the latest televised debate between the four remaining Democratic contenders. For the benefit of those who, like me until yesterday, are new to this these are (in the order they finished in Iowa):

  1. Senator Barack Obama - aiming to be the first "black" president (I put in it quotes as his mother was white but anyway he defines himself as black). He's younger than me, just, and he comes over very well. Very smart. Very engaging. Very funny. He's positioned himself as an outsider, opposing things like lobbyists. The candidate for "change".
  2. Former senator John Edwards - I don't know where in America he's from but to me he sounds like a bit of a hick (but then so did Jimmy Carter). Once you get past that he's on similar ground to Obama and in the debate I watched he was definitely trying to get on Obama's coat tails and playing up the change agenda. He's early fifties but looks younger. Not sure that his hair is really that black mind you.
  3. Senator Hillary Clinton - who is more than a little peeved that she came in not first but third in Iowa. She had several pops at Obama in the debate but it didn't reflect well on her.
  4. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson - the old man of the group. He's 61 and jowly but again his hair is suspiciously black.

In the debate both Clinton and Richardson were playing heavily on their experience, thus portraying the other two as lightweights. I think this worked for Clinton but Richardson had too little to say and relied on trotting out his key achievements several times. That didn't go down well with me: I don't think the people who make the effort to watch these debates are that dumb that they need to be told things more than once.

Watching the debate it very much looked like Edwards and Richardson were bit players: the real contenders were Obama and Clinton, and all four of them knew that. To me it looked like Edwards was positioning himself to take the Veep slot on the ticket if and when Obama wins.

Anyway it's the New Hampshire primaries today which is the next big test. Apparently everyone is seeing this as a Obama/Clinton fight (not sure why Edwards isn't expected to repeat his Iowa performance, I suspect it's where he's done the groundwork and spent his money but I've not read much analysis - I'm relying mainly on what the candidates said).

For the record my vote's for Obama not least because he really seems to understand, and be willing to acknowledge, how much Bush has turned the world against America in the last eight years. But as I'm here and he's over there that's pretty academic. The good news is that the Democrats have at least three candidates who appear to be intellectual giants compared to Bush and that bodes well for America and the rest of the world for the next four years.

Tags: world Written 08/01/08

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